Italian maverick politician urges abolition of Vatican state
Agence France Presse
November 27, 2000

Maverick Italian politician Marco Pannella on Monday called for the Vatican's more than 70-year-old status as a separate country to be abolished as Catholicism was the only religion to be granted a sovereign state.

Pannella's appeal came nine days after European deputies of three Dutch parties launched a campaign demanding that the European Union sever all diplomatic ties with the Vatican.

The deputies argue that the Vatican wields too much political power compared to other religions, blocking decision-making in international organizations on issues such as AIDS prevention and women's rights.

The Vatican does not represent any people, and should not be able to force the United Nations into policy concessions on women and youth.

The first Italian politician to come out in favor of abolishing the Roman Catholic Church's temporal powers, Pannella said on private Radio Radical he was backing a campaign to change this status, notably at the United Nations.

The campaign has been initiated by the See Change movement which wants the church's current status as a Non-member State Permanent Observer reviewed.

See Change argues that the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, should participate in the United Nations as the world's other religions do -- as a nongovernmental organization.

"Not even at Mecca, the church is a state, even though some Islamic countries are confessional countries," said Pannella, 70. "It is about time that we too start reforms to immediately disband and convert the Vatican City State."

The 44-hectare (109-acre) Vatican City State around Saint Peter's Basilica on the right bank of the Tiber river in Rome, was created in 1929 under the terms of the Lateran treaties with the Italian Fascist government of Benito Mussolini.

The so-called Concordat recognised its sovereignty and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. It was amended by the government of the late prime minister Bettino Craxi, a socialist, in 1984.

Pannella said the Dutch move was a reminder that the Vatican was "using the holy water sprinkler to bless the baton ... against science, conscience, democracy and tolerance, if not worse: against the lives of millions of people."

The politician is one of the founders of the small Radical party which has former EU commissioner Emma Bonino among its members.