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A dignity to protect

· The Holy See and the Convention of the Rights of the Child ·

The Committee of the Convention of the Rights of the Child is meeting from 13-31 January in Geneva in its 65th session. The purpose of the committee is to examine the reports submitted by certain countries (Russia, Germany, Portugal, Yemen) on the implementation of the Convention in their own country. This is requested of all signatories — including the Holy See which in 1990 ratified the Convention and was among the very first to do so — who are obliged to present a report on the implementation of the principles and directives of the Convention. The Committee, said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, head of the Holy See delegation in an interview with Vatican Radio, “presents its observations, suggestions, advice to every state that has ratified the convention”, in order to “start a dialogue between the state involved and the experts”. Like the other states, the Holy See is participating in this exercise, and above all is seizing this important occasion “to reaffirm the value and the procedures of the convention and to accept any good advice that is given, that can be helpful in the protection of children”, stated Archbishop Tomasi.

As explained in a note by Fr Federico Lombardi, the Holy See presented its initial report on 2 March 1994 and the second report (which officially includes the third and the fourth) on 27 September 2011. On this basis — and after receiving suggestions from the group of the non-governing organizations which are participating in the alternative process of evaluation — the Committee asked the Holy See a series of questions to obtain further information with the non-mandatory request that the answers be handed in “preferibly” by 1 November 2013. The offices of the Holy See thus continued to work on their answers in November and they were sent to Geneva on 30 November. The date chosen by the Committee to meet with the Holy See delegation in order to discuss the report and the answers to the supplemental questions was yesterday, 16 January.

Both the report and additional information provided dedicate a large introductory section to explaining and specifying the particular nature of the Holy See as a subject of international law which adheres to the Convention, especially in its distinction and its relation to Vatican City State — also part of the Convention — and in relation to the Catholic Church, as community of faithful spread throughout the world whose members are subject to the laws of the States in which they live and work.

The Church’s commitment to protecting children is well-known, as Archbishop Tomasi highlighted in his address yesterday at the committee’s session. “Various institutions of the Catholic Church around the world”, he said, “have been engaged in assuring a broad range and scale of vital social, health, and educational services, thereby accompanying families to form and protect children.” One need only think of the network of Catholic schools at all levels sponsored by religious orders, dioceses and parishes which provide education “to more than 50 million children worldwide, often delivered in rural areas and among marginalized populations”.

There could be no excuse for any form of violence or exploitation of children. Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programmes, in religious organizations and structures. This is the Holy See’s long-standing policy, said Archbishop Tomasi. This was made clear by John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now by Pope Francis who announced the creation of the Commission for the Protection of Minors with the aim of promoting the inviolable dignity of minors: in body, mind and spirit.

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