BY VIVIANE HEWITT IN ROME AND CRISTINA ODONE
TENSIONS BETWEE1 TILE Vatican and the United Nations over population control continued to mount last week as a Vatican official urged the Synod of Bishops for Africa to lobby their governments against acceptance of the proposed ,C7 billion population control programme.
Mgr Diarmud Martin, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the Synod that the UN call for an increase in the amount of international development funding earmarked for population activities would "come from cutting back spending on other areas of development". Such a move, he warned, would hinder development in areas such as Africa.
Pope John Paul El has issued three personal condemnations of the policies promoting artificial birth control in the Third World devised by two UN agencies in particular the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
A prime target of the Pope's efforts to rally international opinion against the proposed plans is the forthcoming UN Demographic Conference, to be held next September in Cairo. It was revealed this week that the Vatican, in its attempt to lobby "friendly governments" to form a worldwide coalition that would steer the Cairo conference, summoned papal nuncios to Rome last month.
The Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano outlined for the nuncios the Vatican's strategy, it was revealed this week. The nuncios were asked to put pressure on their host governments to reject the population control policies which the UN hopes the international community will support at the Cairo confer
In London this week, CAFOD's head of Public Policy, George Gelber, told the Catholic Herald that he was not aware of any attempt by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, to contact CAFOD.
But Mr Gelber stressed that CAFOD was "categorically" against any re-channelling of development funds from areas such as emergency relief efforts or food supply to population control.
"We are concerned," Mr Gelber told the Catholic Herald, "that the Cairo conference, which is about development as well as population, should not focus exclusively on population policy."
At the preparatory meeting for the Cairo Conference, held last month in New York, Mgr Martin warned the UN delegates that the Vatican would "block any suggestion" for national health care plans that included the provision of services which violated Church teaching. Church-run institutions could not provide such services even if they were mandated by the Government, he said.
The Vatican's lobbying is already registering results. At a meeting in New York of the Cairo Conference's preparatory commission, a Greek delegation representing the European Union and several South American representatives requested that the provisional agenda be revised.
UN sources in Rome said that the Cairo Conference's basic working document will now almost certainly feature amendments as regards points on abortion.
Nearly all the countries scheduled to take part in the conference have legalised abortion, but Mgr Diarmuid Martin told the Synod last week that the Vatican would fight these laws, as well as health investment cuts.