Pope addresses UN in NY as US visit continues

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI arrived in New York Friday, as part of his visit to the United States. The first part of his visit was spent in Washington, D.C.. He arrived on "Shepherd One", a specially dedicated plane belonging to Alitalia, the flag carrier of Italy.

On the first day of his visit to New York City, he went to the United Nations (UN) and addressed the General Assembly. In his speech he urged leaders to solve world crises together, though the world still remains subject to "the decisions of a few," whom he did not name. Benedict XVI is the third Pope to address the United Nations in person.

The primary focus of his speech was about dialogue, diplomacy and human rights. He delivered the speech in both French and English. Benedict XVI said it was the duty of every nation to guarantee human rights.

"If states are unable to guarantee such protection, it is then up to the international community to intervene with the legal means that are provided for under the United Nations Charter and other international instruments," the Pope said.

The Pope argued that national sovereignty should not stand in the way of protecting human rights. "On the contrary, it is indifference or non-intervention which cause the real harm," he said.

Pope Benedict in the Popemobile on Wednedsday in Washington, D.C.
Image: John.

The concept of "responsibility to protect," has also been championed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in seeking international action in regions like Darfur.

Benedict XVI said that religion should not be excluded at the UN because it is "a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person." He further added "It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature."

People wait in New York to see Pope Benedict XVI.
Image: David Shankbone.

On Friday afternoon, after the UN address, Benedict met with members of the local Jewish clergy at the Park East Synagogue, an Upper East Side Orthodox synagogue in New York City.

"The Jewish community make a valuable contribution to the life of the city," Benedict XVI told the congregation, "and I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood."

Rabbi Arthur Schneier told the Pope, that the visit was "a reaffirmation of your outreach, good will, and commitment to enhancing Jewish-Catholic relations."

Thursday, Benedict XVI held Mass at Nationals Park with an estimated 47,000 people attending. During the Mass he spoke about the sexual abuse by clergy. "No words of mine can describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse nor the damage that has occurred within the community of the church," he said. "I ask you to love your priests and affirm the good works they do."

Afterwards, Benedict XVI met privately with some of the abuse victims. Reverend Federico Lombardi, a spokeperson, said he met with five or six abuse victims for approximately 25 minutes.

One of these victims, Bernie McDaid, told Associated Press (AP) about his meeting. "I said, 'Holy Father, you need to know you have a cancer in your flock and I hope you will do something for this problem; you have to fix this,'" McDaid said. "He looked down at the floor and back at me, like, 'I know what you mean.' He took it in emotionally. We looked eye to eye."

Olan Horne, another victim who has worked with McCaid told AP, "I believe we turned the pope's head a little in the right direction."

According to a Vatican official, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, gave the Pope a list of some 1,000 boys and girls who had been abused in the Boston Archdiocese going back several decades.

"The fact that we finally got the pope to actually stand up and put a statement on record, I really think he set the bar this week," said Gary Bergeron to the The New York Times. Bergeron says he was abused by a priest in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Later on Thursday, Benedict met with religious leaders of various faiths at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. He told them that, "Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience". He added, "children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society.

"May others take heart from your experience, realising that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples, ... provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right," the pontiff said.

During the next couple of days in New York, Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to hold Mass at Yankee Stadium and visit the World Trade Center site.


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