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Monday June 11, 2007
Vatican Ambassador to the UN to Present Award to Proponent of "Contraceptives"


By John-Henry Westen

NEW YORK, June 11, 2007 ( - Tomorrow the Vatican ambassador to the United Nations, known officially as the Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, will be presenting an award to Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, president of the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly.  The Vatican ambassador, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, will be presenting the award on behalf of the Path to Peace Foundation, over which he presides as President.

Pro-contraceptive advocate Haya Rashed Al KhalifaA press release from the Holy See Mission at the United Nations states that the award is for Al Khalifa's "dedicated efforts on behalf of peace and development." (see the release here: )

The choice of Al Khalifa came as a surprise to some in the pro-life movement since she is known as a promoter of contraception and so-called 'reproductive health services,' long fought by the Vatican in countless UN meetings. 

In her message for World AIDS Day in December 2006, Al Khalifa said, "Young people also face barriers to access services provided by governments or they cannot afford them and fear being judged when they go to a clinic."   She added, "This severely limits access to contraception and leads to the high rates of unintended pregnancy and HIV in young people. Almost 140 million women do not have access to contraception - so they have no choice in deciding if and when to have children. If world leaders honor their commitments and live up to their promises, then young people would have the reproductive health services and information to meet their needs."  (See the full message here: )

The move is particularly puzzling since it seems to contravene a policy which was approved by Pope Benedict XVI just prior to his election to the pontificate.  In the summer of 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a statement called "Catholics in Political Life".  The document stated: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." (see the document: )

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was at the time the head of the Congregation for the Faith wrote the US Bishops Conference to note that the document was "very much in harmony" with his thoughts on the subject.

Such a policy seemed to be in effect in the Vatican in 2005 when popular Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury's scheduled performance for the Vatican Christmas concert was cancelled for her public stance in favour of condoms.  (see coverage: )

In comments to, the Holy See Mission Office distanced itself from Al Khalifa's stance on contraception.  "As you know, the position of the Holy See and the Path to Peace Foundation is clear and unchanged on the use of artificial contraception as well as our position with respect to the prevention, treatment, and care of people infected and affected with HIV/AIDS," said Rev. Vittorio Guerrera, Assistant to Archbishop Migliore.

Rev. Guerrera added, "Moreover, as you can read on our website, this Mission has consistently reiterated this belief at each state of the public and private debate within the General Assembly and its six committees." 

Nevertheless he indicated that the decision to award Al-Kalifa was made after careful consideration.  "The decision to specifically honor Ms. Al-Kalifa (sic) for her work on inter-religious dialogue along with her dedicated effort to promote peace, development and the rule of law was made after diligent review and reassuring conversations with her on this and other matters," he told

Al Khalifa will be given the award by Archbishop Migliore at $500 per plate Gala Dinner held by the Foundation at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

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