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Holy See convenes UN panel urging global abolition of surrogacy

June 19, 2024 Catholic News Agency 1
Panelists speak at the event “Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” held by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. / Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The Holy See this week hosted a panel at the United Nations at which advocates highlighted the “exploitation and commodification” inherent in the surrogacy industry and stressed the need to regulate and eventually abolish surrogacy around the world.

The participants “highlighted the need for a universal ban to protect against exploitation and commodification,” the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations said, with the panelists calling for “increased awareness and concrete steps at the U.N. level to abolish surrogacy and uphold human dignity.”

The event, titled “At What Price? Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” was held at the Palais des Nations at the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters.

The side event, held at the 56th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was organized by the Holy See mission and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Italy to the United Nations and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Pope Francis earlier this year called surrogacy “deplorable” and called for a global ban on the exploitative practice of “so-called surrogate motherhood” in a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors.

“The path to peace calls for respect for life, for every human life, starting with the life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking,” the pope said in January. 

A press release from the Holy See mission said the panel this week brought together “a wide range of participants” to discuss surrogacy, including a woman born through surrogacy who has since become a child rights activist, as well as an Italian government minister and other advocates.

It was moderated by Gabriella Gambino, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Attendees listen to panelists at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See
Attendees listen to panelists at the event “Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

Olivia Maurel, who was born in America through surrogacy and raised in France, told participants at the panel of the “severe emotional and psychological toll it took on her life,” according to the mission. 

She argued that surrogacy “commodifies children and exploits women, violating international laws and children’s rights,” the release said. 

Gambino, meanwhile, argued that surrogacy has resulted in “procreative tourism” around the globe. Italian Minister for Family, Natality, and Equal Opportunities Eugenia Roccella also argued that surrogacy regulations often fail to capture the complex ethical concerns regarding the exploitation of women and children. 

This has resulted in “a vast international movement of individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds advocating for a global ban on surrogacy,” the Holy See mission said. 

The mission held a similar event earlier this year at the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. 

At that event Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See Mission to the U.N., argued that “children have rights and interests which must be respected, starting with the moral right to be created in an act of love.”

The archbishop at the time called for “an international prohibition on this abusive practice.” 


The Dispatch

Pope Francis may visit United States in September after UN invitation

Pope Francis speaks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 25, 2015. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 25, 2024 / 07:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is reportedly considering returning to the United States in September to speak before the United Nations General Assembly.

The news was initially reported by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix and has not yet been officially confirmed by the Vatican. A source from the Vatican Secretariat of State, meanwhile, told CNA this week that “a formal invitation has arrived from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Pope Francis seems inclined to respond positively.”

If the New York trip occurs, the pope would visit the United Nations during its “Summit of the Future,” which the international body will convene from Sept. 22 to 23.

The possible trip to the United States could change the pope’s already-busy September travel schedule. The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Francis will be in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Singapore from Sept. 2-13.

Pope Francis is also expected at the end of September in Belgium, where he is scheduled to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the University of Louvain, which has been divided into two different linguistic entities since the 1960s. The Holy Father told Mexican television network Televisa last December that he intended to travel to Belgium in 2024.

According to a source familiar with the planning of papal trips, Pope Francis’ trip to Louvain could be postponed to 2025. The postponement of the journey would leave room at the end of September for the visit to the United Nations.

During his planned stay in Belgium, Pope Francis will also celebrate Mass at the national shrine of Koelkenberg. There are also rumors that the pontiff will stop in Luxembourg, one of the small nations favored by the pope for trips to Europe. Luxembourg officials have denied the visit, but the Vatican Secretariat of State has indicated the trip is possible

The September summit’s objective is to strengthen the structures of the United Nations and global “governance” to face more fully the “new and old challenges” of the coming years, the UN has said. 

The meeting will lead a “pact for the future” to advance rapidly toward realizing the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals.”

In a meeting with students in April, Pope Francis described the summit as “an important event,” with the Holy Father urging students to help ensure the plan “becomes concrete and is implemented through processes and actions for change.”

Pope Francis, who is 87, has undergone two surgeries in the last four years and is under regular medical screening. A planned trip to Abu Dhabi to participate in the COP28 meeting was canceled last December due to health reasons. 

The pope was last in the United States in 2015, during which he also appeared before the United Nations.


The Dispatch

Pacem in Terris after 60 years

April 19, 2023 George Weigel 12

On April 11, 1963, John XXIII issued the encyclical Pacem in Terris, a powerful call for a world in which there were neither victims nor executioners that cemented the pontiff’s reputation as “Good Pope John.”  […]

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News Briefs

UN human rights report on Nicaragua cites ‘attacks on Catholic Church’

September 15, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Bishop José Álvarez Lagos is surrounded by police officers on Aug. 4, 2022. The bishop’s detention was cited in a Sept. 13, 2022, U.N. human-rights report. / Diocese Media TV Merced / Diocese of Matagalpa

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 15, 2022 / 09:50 am (CNA).

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a report Sept. 13 that condemned the regime of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, citing a “deterioration of the human rights situation.”  

The report included a compilation of recent incidents in which the Nicaraguan government has attacked and repressed the Catholic Church. 

Ortega, who took office in 2007, has become increasingly authoritarian since his re-election in November 2021. A brutal crackdown on protesters in 2018, the arrest and imprisonment of political opponents before the presidential election, and the repression of the Church prompted a U.N. resolution to further monitor the country.

The report, introduced before the 51st session of the UNHRC in Geneva, documented known human rights violations since March when the report was commissioned.  

In summing up the report’s findings, U.N. official Christian Salazar Volkmann cited “serious violations of civil and political rights, the absence of a national dialogue, the deepening of the political crisis, and the isolation of Nicaragua from the international community.”

“I urge the international community to sustain its efforts and engagement, including, most urgently, to keep calling on the authorities for the release of the arbitrarily detained persons,” Volkmann said. 

Attacks on the Catholic Church

Included among the findings were attacks on the Catholic Church:

— In March, the report noted, Nicaragua expelled the apostolic nuncio, “who had supported dialogue at the beginning of the crisis.”

— On Aug. 1, Nicaraguan police broke into a Catholic radio station in Sébaca, Matagalpa, using violent force. A parish priest and six others were confined in his house for three days without food or electricity.

— The bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, along with two priests, was harassed beginning in May, the report noted. On Aug. 4, police surrounded the bishop’s home and prevented him from going to the cathedral to celebrate Mass. The bishop, five other priests, and six lay people were held by riot police and subject to a criminal investigation. According to human-rights observers, as of today, his location is not known.

— Between May and August, government authorities shut down 12 radio and television media outlets of the Catholic Church, “arguing that they did not have operating permits,” the report said.

— Twelve universities “had their legal personality canceled,” according to the U.N. report. Among them was the Jesuit-run Central American University.

Other human rights abuses

The Catholic Church was only one entity targeted by the Ortega regime. Other instances of human-rights violations found in the report include:

— As many as 1,178 human rights and development organizations were shut down or ordered to leave the country. Among these nongovernmental organizations were entities affiliated with the Catholic Church, including members of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, who were expelled from the country in July.

— As of the writing of the report, 180 people who were arrested during the political crisis of 2021 remain in detention. The report found that their trials were held behind closed doors, and the attorneys of the accused were denied access to evidence and were not allowed to meet with their clients for more than a few minutes before their hearings.

— The U.N. body’s investigations found inhumane conditions at a detention center that resulted in the death of one individual in February. The report noted that the Nicaraguan government had not complied with the UNHRC’s recommendation that they “prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment in custody.”

— Freedom of the press also “deteriorated,” according to the report, which noted that the manager of La Prensa, who was arrested in the run-up to the 2021 elections, was sentenced to nine years in prison for money laundering. The newspaper’s staff has since fled the country, “joining the 120 other journalists who are in exile.” Three journalists were also sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for “spreading fake news and undermining national integrity.”

— The report found that the Nicaraguan government had failed to carry out the recommendations of the UNHRC that included electoral reform and the investigation of human rights violations committed by security forces.