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Côte d'Ivoire

A concordat was made especially for “the basilica in the bush”. The church is modelled on the pope's cathedral, but was planned to top it. The concordat removes money from this desperately poor country for the upkeep of the huge and empty basilica.



St. Peter's in Rome | Our Lady of Yamoussoukro


This concordat protects the foundation that endows the largest church in the world - an African dictator’s answer to St. Peter's Basilica. (After some jostling, a compromise was reached : the top of St. Peter's in Rome is a bit higher, but Our Lady of Yamoussoukro has a tall cross on top of it, making it higher overall.)

It was a private arrangement made with the ailing President Félix Houphouët-Boigny who died the next year. This concordat

  • needed no ratification (Article 16 )
  • keeps the church finances beyond the reach of both criminal and civil law (Art. 7.1)
  • ensures that its income and assets remain untaxed (Art. 9.1),
  • keeps all its documents "inviolable"(Art. 8).

Holding the financial documents secret is a canny move, since the cathedral cost some £87 million ($150 million), which the dictator raided from the national treasury. A Vatican official is reported to have said, "The size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter”.[1] Hence the face-saving mention of amenities like a hospital “which may be freely associated with it” (Art. 2). No guarantees, of course. However, when blessing the completed cathedral (10 September 1990), the John Paul II also laid the foundation stone for the hospital. That allowed him to take the money and shove off all responsibility for “possible eventualities” like a hospital. This consecrated stone now lies alone in a nearby field. The hospital has not been built [2], as the money accepted by the Vatican is only for the cathedral. And his ceremonial laying of the stone “proves” that he had no idea whatsoever, that the hospital would never be built….

Despite the fact that the average Ivorian dies before the age of fifty [3], the Church is holding onto the money which was siphoned from the national treasury. Medical matters are not its responsibility -- but, of course, for spiritual emergencies, the cathedral is provided with its own helopad. [4]

St. Peter’s in Rome was under construction for over a century, but President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, managed to complete his cathedral in three years. It’s been suggested that the President who was eighty when the construction began, wanted an impressive setting for a grand state funeral. (It can hardly have been built for the 15 % of the population that is Catholic.) And indeed, the gigantic building is said to only have been filled twice: for its inauguration by John Paul II and then for the funeral of its builder three years later.

The President also appears to have been concerned with the Hereafter. When asked about the source of this money, he reportedly replied: "I did a deal with God, and you wouldn’t expect me to discuss God’s business in public, would you?" [5]

This concordat ensures that neither he nor the Vatican Bank will ever have to.


Notes


Agreement
Between the Holy See and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire concerning the “International Foundation, our Lady of peace of Yamoussoukro”

 

Signed 20th May 1992
Published in AAS 84 (1082), pp. 840-844

 

The Holy See and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire,

Desiring to promote the whole development of man, in conformity with the authentic social, cultural, spiritual and moral values, inspired by the desire to encourage their cooperation for these ends, mindful to consolidate peace, solidarity and fraternity between men,

Agree as follows:

ARTICLE 1

1. The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire recognises the juridical personality of the “International Foundation of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro”, established and instituted by the Sovereign Pontiff with a canonical and civil personality in the State of the Vatican City.

2. The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire recognises as a consequence the Foundation’s ability to make contracts, to acquire moveable and immoveable goods, to dispose of them and to plead a case in court.

ARTICLE 2

1. The foundation is governed by its own statutes approved by the Holy See.

2. These statutes determine the aim, the inheritance, the administration of funds, and the balance of the Foundation relative to the activities and the administration of the Basilica and of the works which may be freely associated with it: medical centre, radio broadcasting station, university and other possible eventualities.

ARTICLE 3

1. The legal seat of the Foundation is fixed in the State of the Vatican City. Its administrative seat is established at Yamoussoukro.

2. The Foundation has at its disposal the land prescribed by the Act of donation and the establishments which are currently there or shall be established on it. In the future it may acquire other property needed for its activities.

ARTICLE 4

With regard to the installation of the station and the broadcasting of radio and television the Foundation will conform to the provisions of the Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire concerning the radio transmission stations concluded at Abidjan, the 14th of August 1989.

ARTICLE 5

1. The Ivorian Government grants the Foundation full liberty to follow its institutional aims.

2. In order to facilitate the fulfillment of its mission, it grants the Foundation the exemptions and immunities in the articles that follow.

ARTICLE 6

1. The premises of the foundation and its establishments are inviolable.

2. The Ivorian Government will take all appropriate measures to prevent the premises being usurped or damaged, the income of the Foundation interrupted or its dignity diminished.

3. The premises, chattels and possessions of the foundation and of its establishments may not be subjected to being searched, requisitioned, confiscated or expropriated, nor to seizure or compulsory measures.

4. The authorities, functionaries or agents of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire may enter therein, in order to exercise their official functions, only with the consent or at the request of the president of the Administrative Council of the Foundation.

5. The premises of the Foundation shall not be used in a manner incompatible with the mission of the Foundation, as it is set forth in the statutes.

6. The Foundation will not permit the premises to serve as refuge for anyone sought in connection with a crime or [who is] subject to an arrest warrant or an expulsion order.

ARTICLE 7

1. The Foundation enjoys exemption from penal, civil and administrative jurisdiction.

2. The members of the Administrative Council, the Secretary General and all personnel of the Foundation acting in that capacity may not be prosecuted for acts carried out while exercising their functions.

3. At the request of the competent Ivorian Authorities, the Foundation will consent to lift the immunity accorded to one of the beneficiaries if this risks harming the course of justice and if this suspension can take place without prejudice to the interests of the Foundation.

ARTICLE 8

The archives and documents of the Foundation are inviolable at all times and in whatever place they are to be found, except in the case set forth in Article 6.

ARTICLE 9

1. The Foundation, its revenues, its chattels and other possessions are exempt from all direct taxes and from national, regional and municipal taxes, except service taxes.

2. To be considered as taxes administered as remuneration for services rendered [are] taxes for sweeping, for sewer connection, for the removal of refuse and for the airport.

ARTICLE 10

The acquisition of property for the needs of the Foundation is exempted from land registration duty, by the registry office, by mortgage fees and by stamp duty, except for the salary of the curator.

ARTICLE 11

The President, the other members of the Administrative Council, the functionaries and the employees of the Foundation who are not nationals of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire are exempt from all duties on salaries, fees and allowances received for the performance of their duties.

ARTICLE 12

1. The foundation is exempt from all taxes and customs excise duty for importing a reasonable quantity of objects meant for its official use.

2. The objects thus imported may only be sold in the Côte d’Ivoire in accordance with conditions stipulated by the Government.

ARTICLE 13

Without prejudice to the application of the rules of the Monetary Union of West Africa, the foundation may freely within the framework of its official activities:

1. To acquire currency or funds in legally constituted banks, to hold accounts in convertible francs and to use these [funds] for its operations. All payments on the territory of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire will be made in Francs CFA.*

2. To transfer Francs CFA within the territory of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and currency in countries outside the Franc zone and conversely.

ARTICLE 14

The foundation will cooperate with the Ivorian Authorities with a view to assure respect for the laws of the Republic and to avoid all possible abuse which could be occasioned by the exemptions and immunities provided for in the preceding articles.

ARTICLE 15

1. The text of this Agreement may be modified with mutual agreement, on the initiative of one or the other of the contracting parties.

2. Any differences about its interpretation or its application will be amicably resolved between the Holy See and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.

ARTICLE 16

The present Agreement comes into force on the date of the signing.

ARTICLE 17

The present Agreement will be deposited in duplicate identical French copies with the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.

Concluded in Abidjan, the 20th of May 1992

For the Holy See
His Excellence
GRANUS BOLONEK [Janusz Bolonek, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Côte d’Ivoire 1989-1995 and member of Opus dei]

For the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
His Excellence
AMARA ESSY [Foreign Minister of Côte d’Ivoire 1990-2000]


* Francs CFA, formerly meant the currency of "colonies françaises d'Afrique", but since independence, the currency of the "communauté financière d'Afrique". The 10,000 Franc banknote (P-109Aj) pictured here is from 1977-92.


See also The Rights of Man reach an Ivorian village


Translated by Muriel Fraser of the National Secular Society from the French original published in AAS 84 (1082), pp. 840-844.


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