The story on Vatican participation in the Geneva conference of the United Nations following through on the 2001 Durban conference against racism, discrimination and intolerance, has now taken a journalistic life of its own. So I have decided to take out the following developments from the P.S. that I had made of them originally to my 4/19 post about the Geneva conference, as follows:
The first negative reaction I have come across today to the Vatican decision to take part in the Geneva conference on racism
comes from Damian Thompson:
Why is Pope Benedict supporting
the UN's 'anti-racist' hatefest
Posted on Apr 19, 2009
I don't often have a go at Pope Benedict XVI, but WHY is he supporting the United Nations conference on "racism" in Geneva? You know, the one where leading anti-racist (and Holocaust denier) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a major participant.
The one convened by that celebrant of human rights, Libya.
The one where speaker after speaker is lined up to gibber about the most evil racist regime the world has ever known, ie the Zionist entity.
I've been reading the preparatory documents for this ridiculous event, known as Durban II, and I can see why the Obama administration, together with PC Australia and Canada, is boycotting it. Even the BBC is having doubts about it, which is saying something....
There's more on
I think Thompson is referring to the declaration passed in Durban, not to the edited declaration which is the basis for the discussions at the Geneva Conference.
As I tried to rationalize in my own comments after the Pope's statements yesterday, the Vatican is simply being 'Christian' in trying to see good faith in every apparently well-meaning initiative like many questionable ones that the UN and its agencies have been taking in the past decade.
It doesn't thereby indicate its support of what is being done - but being an observer within the conference enables it to state its position officially within the UN as it did in the declaration about homophobia.
The news this morning (4/20) is that the UK and several other European delegations walked out of the Geneva conference when Iran's openly anti-Israel President Ahmadinejad addressed the conference and called Israel 'racist'.
I have not seen whether the Vatican delegation also walked out.
P.S. It did not. Here is a compendium of reports translated from
Vatican delegation opts
to stay after Ahmadinejad's speech
but calls his statements
on Israel 'extremist and unacceptable'
The Holy See, through its press director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said tonight that Iran President Ahmadinejad's statements about Israel and racism were "extremist and unacceptable'.
But the Vatican delegation did not join the walkout by many European nations led by France and the United Kingdom.
Mons. Silvano Tomaso, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN in Geneva, said "Ahmadinejad used extremist expressions with which one cannot agree, but at the same time, in any debate which takes place in an international context, there are at times radical opinions one cannot share but one must listen to them, because this is the environment and the nature of the United Nations - to be the forum in which everyone can express himself".
Further, he said, "The point pursued by the Iranian President was the racism of the state of Israel against the Palestinians, but he did not say anything against the Holocaust, he did not deny this historical phenomenon, he did not mention teh destruction of Israel nor the elimination of this state. For this reason, we decided along with other European nations, all the nations of Latin America, Asia and Africa, to stay in the hall to affirm the right to free expression which is part of the battle we are fighting to change the wording of the final document against racism after the Durban Declaration."
I wish Mons. Tomasi had qualified Ahmadinejad's charge against Israel's 'racism' against the Palestinians as 'alleged' racism, because without the qualification, he is implying he agrees that Israel is 'racist' against the Palestinians.
The Israeli-Palestinian issue is not about race per se, and never has been. It's about territorial rights claimed over the same territory by two peoples who each believe they have historical reasons to claim the territory for their own.
Here is Fr. Lombardi's full statement:
And, as I had feared when I posted the Pope's statements about the Geneva conference at Sunday's Regina Caeli, Rome's hyper-ventilating, ueber-touchy Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, did promptly come out with an accusation against the Pope for those statements, indicating by his words that he has not done his homework at all about the declaration that the Geneva conference is working on.
The conference in itself is an important occasion to promote the battle against racism and intolerance. It is with this intention that the Holy See is taking part, wishing to support the efforts of international institutions to make progress in this direction.
The great majority of the nations of the world are taking part, and the revised Durban declaration approved last Friday is now acceptable,
Obviously, statements like those made by the Iranian President are in the wrong direction, because even if he did not deny the Holocaust or Israel's right to exist [not in Geneva today, that is], he used extremist and unacceptable expressions.
For more reason it is important to continue affirming clearly respect for the dignity of the human being against every form of racism and intolerance.
I am starting to think Di Segni has discovered, like many entertainers, that bashing the Pope is a surefire way to earn headlines. God forgive me, but I have really taken an active dislike for this combative man, always so ready to find fault with Christians. I find every word he says truly hateful.
'The nth careless initiative by the Pope':
Di Segni calls Pope's statements
disturbing and contradictory
ROME, April 19 (Translated from Apcom) - The Chief Rabbi of Rome does not mince words in an interview with La Stampa
to denounce the Vatican decision to take part in the UN's Geneva conference on racism, referred to as Durban-2.
"It's a signal difficult to understand, the nth careless initiative of this Pope," Di Segni said, "to add to the list of his previous backsliding in relationships with Judaism: from revoking the excommunication of the negationist Williamson to the beatification of Pius XII to the Hood Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews".
He claims that "the reality of Durban is in profound contradiction with the announced and praiseworthy anti-xenophobic intentions of the Pope" and that it is 'particularly serious that this disturbing and contradictory intervention of Benedict XVI comes on the eve of his visit to the Holy Land".
He adds: "After this ill-advised intervention, the scenario will be a wave of international indignation, followed by a 'route correction' by the Vatican. But in the meantime, the damage is done because the Vatican has re-legitimized Durban-2, in effect, rendering the boycott of many nations like the USA and Italy [and Israel, he forgets to mention!] in vain."
Mons. Tomasi explains the declaration
on the table in Geneva
reports an interview Mons. Tomasi gave to Vatican Radio [available only as an audio service) before Ahmadinejad's speech. It is the sort of information Rabbi Di Segni should have informed himself about before indulging in his usual rant.
"The Holy See is not tied to any political position, it simply goes to the heart of a problem, which in this case is a human problem of great importance," said Mons. Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, in an interview with Vatican Radio.
The dignity of every person should be valued and respected. It cannot be accepted that there are categories of persons who are considered inferior or less 'valuable' because of race or ethnic identity or religious affiliation.
It is important that all persons are protected and respected without distinction. This is the basic reason that the Holy See is taking part in this conference, as the Holy Father said yesterday at the Regina Caeli.
We are acting accordingly, to do our part in ameliorating the situation, through dialog not through aggressive methods. We are looking at the substance of the conference, which is considering new forms of racism that have emerged, as for example discriminating against migrants, against indigenous communities. against economically marginalized groups.
There is therefore a need for the international community to renew a common effort against racism in all its forms.
The point of departure is that this is an ethical question regarding respect for human dignity, that all men are children of God, of equal value.
In view of this need, it seems to us that the presence of the Holy See in the negotiations and in the Conference itself is necessary, in the hope of paving the way for the international community to find new ways to fight discrimination.
Of course, the absence of some countries is disquieting, in the sense that it is hard to understand since the draft document for this Conference has already eliminated the points which raised objections from many countries.
This document, which will be the basis for the final declaration of the conference, reaffirms that every form of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia must be fought.
There is explicit mention of the Holocaust, that it should never be forgotten, and there is a reformulation expressing the right to freedom of expression which is very clear, saying that this right should be supported and maintained.
Mons. Tomasi concluded: "The Conference started quite peaceably. the UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, departed the absence of the boycotting nations, citing President Franklin Roosevelt who once said that it is better to be in the arena, fighting, than to be absent."