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VATICAN ( -- The plans for a permanent international

court of justice were at the top of the agenda as UN Secretary General

Kofi Annan met with Pope John Paul in Rome today.

After this 20-minute talk with the Pope, the UN head also spoke with

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, and with

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Secretary for Relations with

States. A statement from the Vatican press office indicated that in

each case the conversation centered on the international conference-

- now taking place in Rome-- that is intended to set up a permanent

international court.

At his Sunday Angelus audience on June 14, Pope John Paul endorsed

the establishment of such a court-- provided that it would respect

"fundamental human rights." Church diplomats and pro-life activists

have expressed concerns that such a court might eventually

intervene in the affairs of individual nations, to enforce UN

statements supporting unrestricted abortion and contraception.

Representatives of 100 countries have gathered in Rome to discuss

the prospects for a permanent court of justice, which would be

charged with the responsibility for handling cases of war crimes and

other "crimes against humanity." The drive to establish such a court

on a permanent basis began after the Nuremberg trials of 1948, and-

- after being stalled by the Cold War-- was revived when special

international courts were convened to try accused war criminals for

offenses committed during the warfare in the former Yugoslavia and

during the genocidal conflicts in Rwanda. The current drive has

enthusiastic support from Canada and Germany, and more qualified

support from China, Russia, France, and the United States.


VATICAN ( -- Speaking at the Rome conference

dedicated to the establishment of a permanent international court of

justice, the Vatican delegate to the United Nations argued that such a

body should be an instrument of reconciliation. He also reaffirmed

the Holy See's opposition to the death penalty.

Archbishop Renato Martino, the permanent observer for the Holy See

at the UN, said that an international court should be dedicated not to

vengeance but to "the restoration of just relationships in the human

family." For that reason, he said, the court should not invoke the

death penalty. He added that "the destruction of life... is inconsistent

with the universal norms which serve to justify" such an

international court.

The archbishop also said that such a court must protect the dignity of

the human person. He said that nations have the right to establish

such a court, in order to make manifest the universal moral norms

which they hold in common. Such norms, he continued-- in an

obvious reference to certain UN resolutions which have been seen as

attacks on family life-- must be in keeping with "the eternal

principles and objectives that protect and ordain the family and

human life."


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