The Popes at the United Nations

Within the framework of the trip of His Holiness Pope Francis to the United States in September 2015 and his first appearance at the United Nations, Catholic News Agency has prepared a brief synopsis of the speeches given by all the popes who have addressed the UN General Assembly in New York since its foundation 70 years ago.

Pope Paul VI at the U.N. (October 4, 1965)

With humility and simplicity Pope Paul VI delivered an historic speech at the United Nations, offering “a message for all of humanity” as the first Vicar of Christ to speak before the UN 20 years after it was created. The Supreme Pontiff opened his speech with a request: “that of serving you in so far as lies within our competence, with disinterest, humility and love.”

Paul VI next presented the Church as an “expert in humanity” and gathering together the unanimous prerogative of the peoples crying out for peace, he called for “No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.”

These and other words concerning human dignity, the fight against poverty and an exhortation to “not support artificial birth control” make Paul VI’s discourse before the United Nations one of the most important of his pontificate. The complete text can be found here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/speeches/1965/documents/hf_p-vi_spe_19651004_united-nations.html

Pope John Paul II’s first visit to the U.N. (October 2, 1979)

On his third pastoral visit outside Italy, Pope Saint John Paul II visited Ireland and the United States from September 29 to October 8. Within this context, he visited the United Nations and addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Speaking to the representatives of the nations, His Holiness told of his experiences during World War II and gave a powerful reflection recalling his visit a few months earlier to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He pointed out that the Declaration on Human Rights “cost the loss of millions of our brother and sisters, who paid for it with their own suffering and sacrifice” and he also said that “This price must not have been paid in vain!” making an appeal to maintain respect for the whole human person.

He gave a lesson in humanism in his speech, speaking about human dignity and the threats that exist against its integrity, especially concerning religious liberty, the right to life, among other transcendent themes that can be read in full at this link: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1979/october/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19791002_general-assembly-onu.html

Pope Saint John Paul II’s second visit to the U.N. (October 5, 1995)

Saint John Paul II was the first pope to go to the UN General Assembly for a second time. During that opportunity, the reason for his visit was to honor the 50th anniversary of the UN’s founding, but especially to recall Pope Paul VI’s historic discourse at the United Nations given 30 years before.

Pope Saint John Paul II’s speech focused on Human Rights, on the invitation to “take the risk of freedom,” the Social Doctrine of the Church, among other topics.

He also called on governments to fight against poverty, “the international economic scene needs an ethic of solidarity, if participation, economic growth, and a just distribution of goods are to characterize the future of humanity.”

Concluding his remarks, with a message full of hope, Saint John Paul II called on the representatives of the nations to go beyond fear and to build a civilization of love:

“With these gifts, and with the help of God's grace, we can build in the next century and the next millennium a civilization worthy of the human person, a true culture of freedom. We can and must do so! And in doing so, we shall see that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit,” the pope emphasized.

The complete text can be found here: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1995/octobe/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_05101995_address-to-uno.html

Pope Benedict XVI at the UN (Friday, April 18, 2008)

Pope Benedict XVI visited the United Nations in 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was approved December 10, 1948 in Paris.

Pope Benedict noted in his dissertation that upholding human rights, that “removing human rights from this context (natural law) would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception.” On that occasion the Supreme Pontiff also referred to the crucial relevance of religious liberty and appealed for peace, among other important topics.

The complete text may be found here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2008/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080418_un-visit.html

Pope Francis at the UN (September 25, 2015)

Pope Francis will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The invitation to participate in this great assembly was made by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. His Holiness will be in the United States from September 22-27.

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