Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås met Archbiship Dominique Mamberti in the Vatican on 17 June 2013. Photo: Astrid Sehl/Ministry of Foreign Affairs.(Astrid Sehl, Utenriksdepartementet)
The Norwegian Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås met Archbishop Dominique Mamberti in Rome on 17 June 2013. Holmås addressed issues such as women’s right to decide over their own body and pregnancies, the consequences of inadequate access to contraception in poor countries, and discrimination against sexual and religious minorities.
“Every year, more than a quarter of a million women die in connection with pregnancy and childbirth. Some 200 million women in poor countries lack access to contraception. And more than 20 million women risk their life and health due to harmful and degrading abortion procedures. Women’s opportunity to make decision on when to have children, and how many, is also an important aspect in poverty reduction and sustainable development,” Holmås said.
The Minister expressed concerns over the political, social and moral challenges that are facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LHBT), and discrimination against religious minorities.
“On these issues, I believe that the Catholic Church is impeding the realisation of women’s and sexual minorities’ rights. I am concerned that this is of high priority for the Holy See. Its views influence 1.2 billion people all over the world. I am also concerned that the Holy See and other religious groups in extremely conservative countries join forces when it comes to these subjects,” Holmås said.
Holmås also recognized issues where Norway has enjoyed a good dialogue with the Holy See since diplomatic ties were established in 1982. He particularly thanked the Archbishop for the important part the Holy See had played in the successful effort to establish the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008 and the Mine Ban Treaty.
“Norway and the Holy See have a common engagement in issues such as disarmament, peace and reconciliation, sustainable development and the fight against poverty. Both are concerned about environmental protection and addressing climate change. The Holy See has an important role to play as an advocate for these issues in global forums,” Holmås said.
The Minister, who recently visited Bangladesh, expressed appreciation for Pope Francis’ statements on worker’s rights and labour conditions, following the tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh in April. He commended the Catholic Church for its long tradition and tireless efforts in helping the world’s poor, for example extensive work in the health sector.