April 20, 1990
HOLY SEE ACCEDES TO INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION
The Rights of the Child
This is the statement made 20 April in New York by Archbishop Renato R.
Martino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at a press
conference on the occasion of the accession of the Holy See to the Convention
the Rights of the Child. The convention was adopted by the 44th U.S. General
Assembly last November.
I am pleased to announce that this morning, 20 April 1990, I have deposited
with the Secretary-General of the United Nations the instruments of accession of
the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
By choosing to be among the first in acceding to the Convention on the Rights
of the Child, the Holy See would like to encourage all countries and peoples to
join in assuring legal protection and effective support to the well being of all
the children of the world.
The Holy See has always maintained that children are, in the words of His
Holiness Pope John Paul II, "that precious treasure given to each generation as
a challenge to its wisdom and humanity." Responding to such a challenge, the
United Nations concluded on 20 Nov. 1989 the laborious work of drafting and
adopting a Convention to defend the rights of children. The United Nations,
since its inception, has considered human rights one of its fundamental
concerns; the Convention on the Rights of the Child, once ratified, will have
its rightful place among the major International Instruments on Human Rights
which the Organization has produced.
One could have wished that the rights of the child should have been formally
codified much sooner than now, even before the adoption of other specific human
rights instruments, for the child represents the primordial subject of human
rights and, in his total state of dependency, needs and merits absolute
The key to the correct understanding and respect of the rights of children is
rooted in the unambiguous recognition of their human nature. It is not
governments or adult individuals that choose to grant the child rights. It is
the human nature of the child that constitutes the infrangible and indivisible
foundation of the child's rights, without regard to the levels of development of
his or her precious existence or to the convenience or inconvenience caused by
his or her presence. The violation or neglect of these rights--first among them
the very right to life itself--represent crimes of a most hideous nature.
As I had the opportunity to state on 13 November 1989 before the Third
Committee of the General Assembly, the Holy See has recognized the long and
laborious work that has produced the Convention on the Rights of the Child and
has taken note of the positive contributions that such an instrument can make
towards many aspects of the wellbeing of children. The text of the Convention,
however, represents the minimum grounds upon which agreement could be achieved
and, therefore, presents areas where the consensus of the parties does not
indicate their complete satisfaction.
The Holy See has held and continues to maintain definite positions on several
items which were the object of the extensive debate that led to the formulation
of the text of the Convention. With a view to avoiding further delay, the long
process and considering that the adopted text would contribute to safeguarding
the rights of children, the Holy See accepted, albeit with reservations, the
The accession of the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is
accompanied by the following declaration and reservations.
The Holy See regards the present convention as a proper and laudable
instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children, who are
"that precious treasure given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom
and humanity" (Pope John Paul II, 26 April 1984).
The Holy See recognizes that the convention represents the enactment of
principles previously adopted by the United Nations, and, once effective as a
ratified instrument, will safeguard the rights of the child before as well as
after birth, as expressly affirmed in the "Declaration of the Rights of the
Child" [Res. 136 (XIV)] and restated in the ninth preambular paragraph of the
Convention. The Holy See remains confident that the ninth preambular paragraph
will serve as the perspective through which the rest of the Convention will be
interpreted, in conformity with Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law
of Treaties of 23 May 1969.
By acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See
intends to give renewed expression to its constant concern for the well-being of
children and families. In consideration of its singular nature and position, the
Holy See, in acceding to this Convention, does not intend to prescind in any way
from its mission which is of a religious and moral character.
The Holy See, in conformity with the dispositions of Article 51, accedes
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the following reservations.
a) that it interprets the phrase "Family planning education and services" in
Article 24.2, to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers
morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning;
b) that it interprets the Articles of the Convention in a way that safeguards
the primary and inalienable rights of parents, in particular insofar as these
rights concern education (Articles 13 and 28), religion (Article 14),
association with others (Article 15) and privacy (Article 6);
c) that the application of the Convention be compatible in practice with the
particular nature of the Vatican City State and of the sources of its objective
law (Art. 1, Law of 7 June 1929, n. 11), and, in consideration of its limited
extent, with its legislation in the matters of citizenship, access and