“Those words of caution of course increased in the 1990s as Holy See officials began to express concerns again about the UN itself. There were the tumultuous conferences in Cairo and Beijing, and evidence was accumulating of certain deficiencies in the UN with respect to the deficiencies of all large bureaucracies: transparency, accountability, susceptibility to bias, and susceptibility to co-option by special interests.”
Archbishop Caccia said that the UN anniversary was “an opportunity to look to the past with gratitude for achievements and with humble resolution to learn from mistakes.”
He pointed out that Pope Francis had called for reform of the UN in his most recent encyclical “Fratelli tutti.”
Pope Francis wrote that reform was needed so that “the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.”
“This calls for clear legal limits to avoid power being co-opted only by a few countries and to prevent cultural impositions or restrictions of the basic freedoms of weaker nations on the basis of ideological differences,” the pope wrote.
The Holy See became an observer state at the UN in 1964. Since then, there have been five papal visits to the UN: by Paul VI in 1965, John Paul II in 1979 and 1995, Benedict in 2008, and Francis in 2015.
Observer states have all of the rights and responsibilities of UN member states except the right to vote, run for office, or sponsor resolutions.
Caccia said that the priorities of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See today were to advocate and work for peace, defend religious freedom, stand up for fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, promote integral development, ensure care for migrants and refugees, and care for our common home.
At the UN, “Catholics are like the leaven in the loaf,” Glendon said.
She emphasized that Catholic thought was brought into the public square in the past by “men and women who were skilled, dedicated, and courageous enough to do so.”
“For them, as for the Holy See itself, there is of course always a tension between moral witness and ordinary political pressures. But I would suggest that the Catholic contribution has always been greatest and most durable when that tension is resolved in favor of moral witness.”
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