Pope Benedict XVI addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization at the organization’s headquarters in New York. Pope Benedict is the third Pope to address the United Nations, following Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. (Pope John Paul II addressed the United Nations twice, in 1979 and in 1995.)
Upon arriving at the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Srgjan Kerim. Before addressing the General Assembly, Pope Benedict met privately with the Secretary-General.
The Holy Father began his address in French before switching to English. He noted that the founding principles of the United Nations – the desire for peace, a sense of justice, respect for the dignity of the human person, and cooperation and humanitarian assistance — are just aspirations of the human spirit. The Holy See shares an interest in these principles.
Questions of security, development, reducing inequality, and care of the environment require collective action in good faith for the common good. While scientific and technological advances can be of great help, some can rob the human person and the family of their identity. He called on the international community to act with juridical means when needed to safeguard human rights.
The Holy Father spoke of the critical importance of protecting human rights, noting the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Promoting human rights is the most effective strategy for reducing inequality and increasing security. Human rights are not simply a matter of law, but of justice, based in the natural law written on the human heart.
Once again, the Holy Father spoke of the importance of dialogue between religions as a way of building consensus in service of the common good. He emphasized the importance of freedom of religion in its public as well as its private dimension.
Pope Benedict said that the Catholic Church wishes to offer her proper contribution to international relations, making available her centuries of experience. He concluded his address by greeting the assembly in all the official languages of the United Nations, wishing them peace and prosperity with God’s help.
The assembly responded to his address with a standing ovation..
The complete text of the Holy Father’s address is here.