NEW YORK, May 23 (CNS)--The Vatican's U.N. nuncio said May 11 that a new statement from the U.S. bishops denouncing Catholics for a Free Choice for a campaign against the Vatican's U.N. permanent observer status will be useful in reminding leaders at the world body that the organization is not Catholic.

The organization has consultative status as a nongovernmental organization at the United Nations, and its president, Frances Kissling, has been an active lobbyist at U.N. meetings.

In a telephone interview, Archbishop Renato R. Martino commented on a May 10 statement issued by Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, as president of the bishops' conference, that said the group's campaign against the Vatican's U.N. status is reminiscent of ``other episodes of anti-Catholic bigotry.''

Fiorenza said the group's claim to be Catholic is false, and he criticized ``its rejection and distortion of Catholic teaching about the respect and protection due to defenseless unborn human life.''

Martino said the group's campaign has not affected church relations with the world body and that not one of the U.N.'s 180 member nations has indicated any support for it.

If anything, he said, some delegates had been ``even warmer'' in their relations with him than before, he said.

Martino said relations with the U.N. secretariat also remain unchanged. Pope John Paul II received U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the chief executives of all U.N. agencies April 7, he said.

He noted that the Vatican mission sponsored a U.N. program May 18, with the secretary-general among those attending, to mark the pope's 80th birthday.

Martino said, however, that he would send Fiorenza's statement to all ambassadors to the United Nations, to the U.N. secretariat and to U.N. correspondents. While the U.S. bishops have made other statements about Catholics for a Free Choice, he said ``public opinion is forgetful'' and ``must be reminded that they are not Catholic.''

The Vatican's U.N. mission sent a brief press release with Fiorenza's statement, and explained that Catholics for a Free Choice also has advocated a change in the church's opposition to abortion and artificial contraception.

New arrivals in the U.N. community could be confused by the group's name and misled into thinking its support for legal abortion was a Catholic position, Martino said.

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