Archive for April 10th, 2008

Although the Holy See is not a member state of the United Nations, since 1964 it has had a Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York.

In 2004 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution by acclamation strengthening the mission’s status. The Holy See now enjoys, among other things, the right to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly, the right of reply, the right to have its communications issued and circulated directly as official documents of the assembly, and the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions that make reference to the Holy See.

In December 2006, the U.S. Congress authorized the president to grant members of the observer mission the same diplomatic immunity and privileges that the United States, as host country, grants to UN ambassadors and their staffs.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore is apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. He is the fourth Permanent Observer.

In addition, the Holy See participates in many conferences sponsored by the United Nations and takes an active role in the work of UN agencies.

Sources: How to Cover the Catholic Church and the Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.

Read Full Post »

On April 18, Pope Benedict XVI will address the General Assembly of the United Nations. It will be the fourth time a Pope has addressed the General Assembly.

On October 4, 1965, Paul VI became the first Pope to address the United Nations. He called the organization “a bridge between peoples” and called for peace and disarmament, telling his listeners, “If you wish to be brothers, let the weapons fall from your hands.” He said that peace should guide the destiny of humanity. The pope stirred the UN delegates with an impassioned cry “Jamais plus la guerre!” No more war!

Pope John Paul II addressed the United Nations twice, in 1979 and in 1995.

On October 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II spoke out for human rights around the world. He pointed out that progress is measured not only by science and technology, but by “the primacy of spiritual values and the progress of moral life.” Recalling the horror of World War II, he pointed out the relationship between war and injustice and called for disarmament so that children would not grow up under the threat of war. He identified two great threats to human rights: the unequal distribution of goods and injustice in “the field of the spirit,” especially discrimination against freedom of religion and other human freedoms.

Pope John Paul II addressed the United Nations again on October 5, 1995. He recognized the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, noting that the Holy See cooperates with the United Nations on issues of shared concern. In the years after the end of the Cold War and in preparation for the new millennium, he noted the worldwide movement toward freedom, based on the dignity of the human person. He recognized the rights of both individuals and nations, stressing the need to respect “the other” in our midst and build solidarity.

Read Full Post »

On April 18, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with leaders of various Christian denominations at an ecumenical gathering at Saint Joseph’s Church in the Yorkville neighborhood of New York.

This parish was established in 1873 to meet the spiritual needs of the growing number of German immigrants who had settled in the area. The parish grew out of a community worshipping in the chapel of Saint Joseph’s Orphanage, established on the Upper East Side to give the orphans access to fields, forests, and fresh air.

From its earliest days, the parish emphasized the education of children, using a hall in the orphanage. By the time a school opened in 1880, the student body numbered 500.

Construction of the present church building dates to 1894. The congregation had outgrown the previous building.

Though now the spiritual home to Catholics of many nationalities, Saint Joseph’s remains a special place for German Catholics in New York.

Source: Saint Joseph’s Church.

Read Full Post »

Participant Profile: Saman Hussain

At the April 17 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of other religions, five young adults will present the Holy Father with symbols of peace from their faith traditions.

Saman Hussain will present a gift on behalf of the Muslim community. Born in Pakistan, Ms. Hussain graduated in 2007 from the University of Virginia, where she majored in religious studies and foreign affairs. While in college, Saman served as a leader of the Muslim Student Association. She currently works for the Department of the Interior in a management and policy internship program. Ms. Hussain was one of the coordinators of the Unity Walk in memory of the victims of the September 11, 2001, tragedy, organized by the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. On campus at the University of Virginia, she was known for reaching out to other religious groups.

She will give Pope Benedict one of the most poetic verses of the holy Qur’an (24.35) in the form of a colorful calligraphic design. This verse emphasizes the encounter with God as Light, bringing peace to the soul of the believer. Traditional Muslim calligraphy has been used in this gift, finding its expression through comtemporary technology.

In reflecting on this opportunity, Ms. Hussain said:

Living in an increasingly interdependent world today we can’t help but pose the question: will we persistently misunderstand one another and continuously amplify our differences? Or will we take the initiative to open up and talk?

Something beautiful typically unfolded whenever we took part in dialogue during our planning meetings for the Unity Walk last year. We unfailingly surprised ourselves. We surprised ourselves with the similarities and humanity we saw in one another. We surprised ourselves in our absolute commitment to core values that often overlapped. Yes, there are real and obvious differences, but dialogue helps us accept and understand these – even cherish and celebrate them as opposed to glossing over them or deeming them insurmountable.

This event, I hope, will be a unique opportunity for dialogue. I am looking forward to hearing the Pope’s views on the state of religion today and the future of inter-religious affairs here and in the rest of the world. I hope that his visit sets the stage and catalyses the process for a systematic and meaningful discourse in the US and beyond. As a Muslim and as a firm believer in dialogue, I believe that honest, open exchange conducted in the spirit of mutual respect is crucial to avoid falling into polarized views of ‘us’ vs. ‘them,’ especially when this involves those who think differently from ourselves. Ultimately, we share a common earth and ought to embrace and treasure our universal humanity.

Read Full Post »