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Holy See Publishes Reply to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

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Jeffrey Bruno/ALETEIA

Vatican Radio - published on 09/27/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Holy See clarifies matter of jurisdiction

The Holy See Press Office has published the official text of the comments made in February by the Holy See delegation to the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child from earlier this year.

In the remarks, the Holy See reminded the committee the Holy See only exercises full territorial sovereignty in the territory of the Vatican City State, and that the Holy See “does not have the capacity or legal obligation to impose the above-mentioned principles upon the local Catholic churches and institutions present on the territory of other States and whose activities abide with national laws.”

The document also highlighted “that the Committee makes certain recommendations that disregard principles of international law that underpin every treaty,” and expressed particular concern over “the advancement of controversial new expressions not contained in the Convention, and related principles, which contradict the ordinary meaning of the words in the text, and fail to respect the spirit of the CRC”

The full text of the Comments of the Holy See is below

Comments of the Holy See on the Concluding Observations

of the Committee on the Rights of the Child

1. The Holy See is well aware of its position within the international juridical system, as a sovereign subject of international law, as well as of its obligations as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocols, which has been clearly articulated in its Reports, Written Replies and statements made during the inter-active dialogue. At this point, and pursuant to art. 45 (d) of the CRC, the Holy See intends to comment on certain passages contained in the Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1; CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1) presented by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter “Committee”), on 5 February 2014.[1]

2. In specific regard to the Concluding Observations CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, the Holy See underlines that in executing the obligations under the CRC, its conduct has always been inspired by general principles of international law, which include respecting in good faith the obligations deriving from treaties.[2] The specific details are set out in the Second Periodic Report (CRC/C/VAT/2) and in the Written Replies to the List of Issues of the Committee (CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1). The Holy See has acted in a similar way in relation to the application of the Optional Protocols as specified in its Initial Reports (CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1 and CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/1) and in the Written Replies of the Holy See to the List of Issues of the Committee (CRC/C/OPSC/ VAT/Q/2/Add.1).

3. The Holy See, in affirming its proper nature as a subject of international law, reiterates that the international obligations contracted upon adherence to the CRC, with reservations[3] and interpretative declaration[4], and its Optional Protocols are fulfilled first and foremost through the implementation of the aforementioned duties within the territory of the Vatican City State (VCS), over which the Holy See exercises full territorial sovereignty. Beyond this geographic territory, which it administers, the Holy See disseminates principles recognized in the CRC to all people of goodwill and to various local Catholic churches and institutions, which operate in different States in compliance with national laws. Therefore, the obligations of the Convention and its Optional Protocols refer to Vatican citizens, as well as, where appropriate, the diplomatic personnel of the Holy See or its Officials residing outside the territory of Vatican City State.[5] The Holy See does not have the capacity or legal obligation to impose the abovementioned principles upon the local Catholic churches and institutions present on the territory of other States and whose activities abide with national laws. The Holy See, in accordance with the rules of international law, is aware that attempting to implement the CRC in the territory of other States could constitute a violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States.4. In light of the above, the Holy See takes note with satisfaction that the Committee has considered this position, indicating that it is “aware” of “the Holy See’s ratification of the Convention as the Government of the Vatican City State, and also as a sovereign subject of international law having an original, non-derived legal personality independent of any territorial authority or jurisdiction”, and that the Committee is “fully conscious that bishops and major superiors of religious institutes do not act as representatives or delegates of the Roman Pontiff ” (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, para. 8).

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