ADDRESS OF THE HOLY SEE AT BEIJING+5
Delivered by Kathryn H. Hoomkwap of the Holy See
June 9, 2000
The Holy See delegation has participated actively in the negotiations leading
to this Plenary of the Special Session of the General Assembly which has raised
issues of critical importance to the lives of millions of women worldwide, and
which have evaluated the progress that has been made since the Fourth World
Conference on Women.
The "living heart" of the initiatives called for in the Beijing Platform for
Action correspond to the multiplicity of services the Catholic Church has
historically provided to women, demonstrating in action, as well as in words,
its belief in the importance of educating girls and women, on access for women
to education, and the basic social services which they need to pursue their own
life and family goals. The Platforms' sections on the needs of women in poverty,
on ending violence against women, on education, employment, land, capital and
technology coincide with the Church's own mission since they begin to speak of
the hope which Pope John Paul II has eloquently summed up in his exhortation to
"Be not afraid."
But, Mr. Chairman, the truth is, I am afraid, as are many of my sisters
throughout the world. As a wife and mother, I, and my Delegation fear for the
health and well being of children in Africa where the continued prevalence of
diseases like malaria, guinea worm disease, schistosomaiasis, - along with the
growing HIV/AIDS pandemic fells so many of our children. We worry about the
number of people, especially the children, who suffer from malnutrition in a
world with so much food. The Holy See is extremely concerned about the growing
conflicts and the people who find themselves torn from their homes and families
by war and senseless turmoil. As a mother of children, I, and my Delegation, are
greatly worried about those who cannot read and write and who continue to be
enslaved by ignorance and a lack of knowledge in a world that seems to thrive on
technology and information.
For these reasons, Mr. President, my delegation strongly supports the
document's provisions condemning all forms of violence against women, upholding
women's rights to economic and political empowerment, its measures against
poverty, and its references - brief though they are - to high mortality rates
among girls and women due both to chronic illness and to widespread infections,
including tropical diseases. My delegation is particularly pleased to see in the
final document a clear acknowledgment of the need of all women for access to
basic social services including education, clean water, adequate nutrition, and
However, Mr. President, in the end, the "Women 2000" document, like the
Beijing Platform, would emphasize seemingly endlessly, one issue - sexual and
reproductive health - to the detriment of an holistic view of the health of
women and their families which is so desperately needed to alleviate women's
Mr. President, this Special Session has given us an opportunity, not only to
evaluate the past, but also to plan for the future; and I and my Delegation must
ask if we have accomplished all that we set out to do. We live in a changing
world in which many people are afraid and in which many people have lost hope.
The international community must work intensely to calm those fears through the
effective actions of the United Nations.
For all of us to cease to be afraid, we must proceed with full and complete
human development-not only social, economic, but also spiritual. The Holy See
renews its pledge to help find an end to hunger, to find a way toward
educational opportunities for all, toward remedy and comfort for the suffering
caused by sickness and disease, and through these means to continually seek to
extinguish the fear that keeps us from celebrating life as the gift that it is.
"Be not afraid" is not an empty phrase; it is a message that needs to be
concretized by doing all that we can to lead every woman and her family to the
threshold of hope.
In closing, Mr. President, the Holy See Delegation wishes to state that
nothing that the Holy See has done in the "Women 2000" process should be
understood as an endorsement of concepts it does not support for moral reasons.
Nothing is to be understood to imply that the Holy See endorses abortion or has
in any way changed its moral position concerning abortion or contraceptives. The
Holy See reaffirms its belief that life begins at conception and that every
human life must be protected from the earliest moments to the end of the life
Thank you, Mr. President.