Pope Benedict expresses support for UN

April 19th, 2008 - 3:08 am ICT by admin  

New York, April 19 (DPA) Pope Benedict XVI Friday expressed his support for the UN by linking its responsibility to help people with that of the Catholic Church. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is not known for discussing his religious beliefs, responded warmly, saying that the UN was blessed that Benedict came “to lift our spirits and our faith”.

The German-born pope and leader of church dogma came forth in his 20-minute address to the UN General Assembly, packed with representatives from 192 countries, urging the organization to realize its mission.

He was almost mobbed by the UN staff on his way out of the UN headquarters after receiving flowers from a group of children who also serenaded him. The 81-year-old pontiff quietly took on the day’s heavy schedule at the UN, arriving 23 minutes early and leaving after more than three hours of non-stop speeches, handshaking and touring the headquarters.

“My presence at this assembly is a sign of esteem for the UN, and it is intended to express the hope that the organization will increasingly serve as a sign of unity between states and an instrument of service to the entire human family,” the pope said, speaking first in French.

“It also demonstrates the willingness of the Catholic Church to offer her proper contribution to building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference,” he said.

Benedict said his predecessor, John Paul, in particular emphasized the moral character of the UN.

He said the founding principles of the UN call for humankind to achieve its desire for peace, the quest for justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance - all of which are to express “the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitute the ideas which should underpin international relations.”

He said those aspirations remain true even if the world today is faced with the paradox of the multilateral consensus, which is always in crisis because multilateralism is “subordinated to the decision of a small number”.

The visit marked one of the highpoints of the pope’s six-day sojourn in the United States, where he has met not only with US President George W. Bush but also with victims of sex abuse by priests - a precedent-setting encounter and effort to heal raw wounds of the scandal that has touched every Catholic diocese in the United States over the past six years.

Benedict, who spoke first French, then English, received a standing ovation from the audience in the assembly hall. He particularly focused on human rights.

The UN this year is marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the formulation of which was spearheaded by Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who continued her human rights advocacy after he died in 1945.

The pontiff said human rights must include the right to religious freedom as an expression of the individual and the community.

“The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security,” the pontiff said.

Benedict called for the full guarantee of religious freedom, which should not be limited to the exercise of worship, but to the full public dimension of religion that will allow the believers to play a role in society.

Benedict said the UN, ensconced in a small place in busy New York, has a worldwide mission to promote “peace and justice.” He pointed out that the tiny Vatican City also has to exercise its “universal mission and apostolate.”

“In the internal debates of the UN, increasing emphasis is being placed on the ‘responsibilities to protect,’” the pope said. “Indeed this is coming to be recognized as the moral basis for a government’s claim to authority.”

“This organization performs an important service, in the name of the international community, by monitoring the extent to which governments fulfil their responsibility to protect their citizens,” he said.

Secretary General Ban, who welcomed the pope earlier on arrival in his 38th floor office, reminded the pope that the UN is a secular body, using six official languages, but has no official religion. It has a small meditation room, however.

“Whether we worship one God, many or none - we in the UN have to sustain and strengthen our faith every day,” Ban said before Benedict delivered his speech.

“I am profoundly grateful (to) His Holiness Benedict XVI for bestowing some of his faith on us - and for placing his trust in us,” Ban said. “He possesses both of these in abundance.”

Benedict was the third pope to have visited the UN headquarters in New York, after Paul VI’s visit in 1967 and John Paul II in 1979 and 1995 delivered addresses to the UN General Assembly. The assembly now has 192 members.

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