08 Religion and Politics, Church and State - Austin Ivereigh & Kathleen Griffin

posted Apr 10, 2019, 9:09 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 10, 2019, 9:09 AM ]
Part - II (Continued from The Examiner issue (March 30 - April 5, 2019)

With more than 1.2 billion adherents — about one-fifth of the world's population — the Church is the world's oldest and largest organisation, present through more than 400,000 priests, 800,000 religious sisters and 219,655 parishes. It is the world's second largest international development body (after the UN), and the second largest humanitarian agency (after the Red Cross). Caritas Internationalis, the 60-year-old Rome-based confederation of 165 national bodies of Catholic charities in more than 200 countries, estimates its combined budget at over $5 billion. In Africa, the Church runs a quarter of all the hospitals, and provides around 12 million school seats each year. Globally, it runs more than 5,000 hospitals, 17,500 dispensaries, and 15,000 homes for the elderly, along with tens of thousands of schools. As well as laying claim to be the world's leading moral teacher and guide — an 'expert in humanity', as the Vatican's Justice and Peace Council puts it — the Catholic Church is the largest and most influential actor in global civil society.

Like other global players, it has 'international policy objectives'. The Catholic Church is the only religious body to have an unofficial presence — that of Observer Status — at the United Nations (UN). It is the only religion with a diplomatic corps. But then, the Church is a uniquely significant institution.

Worldwide, the Church is a crucial backer of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a tireless promoter of debt cancellation and other forms of financial aid to the developing world. The Vatican is the world's first carbon-neutral state. The Holy See plays a crucial role in disarmament negotiations and arms trade treaties; in campaigning against the death penalty worldwide; in negotiating the release of hostages; and in conflict resolution. These are the kinds of initiatives which Vatican diplomats are engaged in every day — but which are seldom reported.