Nuncio in Spain explains the Holy See’s position on the UN’s Agenda 2030

Nuncio in Spain explains the Holy See’s position on the UN’s Agenda 2030

The apostolic nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, together with the Grand Chancellor of the Abat Oliba CEU University, Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza. ABAT OLIBA-CEU

By Catholic News Agency

January 31, 2023

The apostolic nuncio of the Holy See in Spain, Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza, explained the Holy See’s position on the United Nations Agenda 2030, from the preliminary discussions to its application.

The reflection on the role of the Holy See regarding Agenda 2030 took place during a ceremony held at the Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona on the occasion of the Jan. 25 feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, patron saint of the academic center.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is “the most comprehensive blueprint to date for eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality, and protecting the planet,” according to the United Nations website.

Auza detailed how the Holy See participated “very intensely” in the preliminary discussions held in 2013 and 2014 for the preparation of Agenda 2030.

However, he stressed that “by its own choice” the Holy See has not voted for the adoption of the document that contains the 16 Sustainable Development Goals.

Main objections

In addition, the nuncio highlighted that among the many caveats raised by the Holy See is the consideration that the declared goals are too numerous and that they entail “excessive idealism,” even more so when they have to be met in 15 years, since they were approved in 2016.

Auza noted that Pope Francis himself has criticized the “declarationist nominalism” found in Agenda 2030, which involves the risk of “assuaging consciences with solemn declarations.”

The Holy See also points out that the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals often poses “an a priori solution, a response to all challenges in all countries.”

This implies that the will of the donors prevails over the real needs of the countries receiving aid.

The nuncio in Spain also recalled that the Holy See has identified as problematic the risk of having a common document but that each country should make its own interpretation, as well as the issue of ideological colonization.

“The Holy See has promptly and clearly made known its reservations about some aspects of the Agenda 2030,” the prelate stressed, noting that “there are many people who think that the Holy See is completely in agreement with the Agenda 2030. Not so, of course.”

However, he pointed out, “it must be recognized that the goals of Agenda 2030 are widely shared. Who is not going to share the issue of ending poverty or hunger, providing education to all, strengthening peace and justice, strengthening dialogue, saving the planet, etc.?”

Controversial concepts

Archbishop Auza pointed out that “although the Holy See agrees with most of the objectives and goals listed in the agenda,” in accordance with its “nature and particular mission” it has made clarifications and made reservations about some concepts.

These are mainly those referring to man, his nature and dignity, sexuality, the right to life, the family and the importance of the foundations of international law in the interpretation and implementation of Agenda 2030.

To illustrate it, the prelate addressed some relevant issues such as the concept of gender, the idea of empowerment and the so-called right to sexual and reproductive health.


Auza recalled that there is an “old debate” on the use of the term “gender” that goes back to the Conference on Development held in Cairo in 1994 and the Conference on Women in 1995 that took place in Beijing.

The nuncio explained that in its note expressing its reservations, the Holy See “emphasizes that any reference to gender, gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls is understood according to the generally accepted common use of the word gender based on biological criteria.”


The nuncio also explained that “by using the term promotion instead of empowerment, the Holy See seeks to avoid a disordered vision of authority as power instead of service.”

The apostolic nuncio in Spain, who was the representative of the Holy See to the U.N. for seven and a half years, explained that the term empowerment has only been used since the 1990s.

Right to reproductive and sexual health

Auza acknowledges that the term sexual and reproductive health “is one of the most controversial because it implies abortion.”

This was used for the first time in 1995 at the Women’s Summit in Beijing. There, the prelate recalled, “there was a great struggle between the Holy See” especially with the United States, whose delegation was headed by Hillary Clinton.

The term was introduced in the final document, but with an interpretation that “thanks to the support of many other countries” could remain in the document and which Auza noted “does not imply abortion.”

This consideration is reflected in the text of the agreement and “is not an interpretation,” the nuncio pointed out.

“It does not include the right to abortion and even less abortion as a fundamental right,” the archbishop said and then “emphasized that no United Nations document has ever mentioned abortion as a right.”

What happens, he argued, is that many countries and U.N. agencies like the World Health Organization and UNICEF do take it this way.

Thus, some nations “have given 67% to 70% of their aid for the implementation of Agenda 2030 only for this term: the right to sexual and reproductive health. This means promoting population control,” he said.


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