The Pope Visits New York & The United Nations

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The Catholic leader moved to a wider venue than Washington for his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Friday morning— wider because this time he spoke to the people of the entire world through their international representatives on United Nations soil. The address took place just before the scheduled UN’s 70th anniversary convocation began. People started to line up before dawn to enter the building.

The Pope's moving speech at the 9/11 World Trade Center destruction site (
The Pope’s moving speech at the 9/11 World Trade Center destruction site (

“In no other hall, from no other platform, can a world leader speak to all humanity,” said Ban Ki-Moon, head of all nations, in introducing the Pope. Francis’s UN speech took place just before a special summit meeting opened there to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. Most of his own priorities echo the spirit of these resolutions.

In the UN speech on Friday morning, the Pope excoriated the international audience more thoroughly than he had chided American politicians the day before in Washington. He blamed rich nations, companies, and individuals for social and environmental destruction and in reference to the wars in the Middle East, Ukraine, and South Sudan. However, he praised the Iran nuclear agreement and endorsed the UN’s efforts toward a global agreement to fight poverty and climate change. He also spoke out against “oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.”

“[The poor] are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the consequences of abuse of the environment. These phenomena are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.’ ”

As in Washington, he repeated his argument that “any harm done to the environment… is harm done to humanity,” with the global poor [elderly, sick, young] suffering the brunt of environmental destruction.

Pope Francis greets the people on New York's famed Fifth Avenue, seat of US fashion and material culture (
Pope Francis greets the people on New York’s famed Fifth Avenue, seat of US fashion and material culture (

“A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and the disadvantaged.”

Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, had this to say:

The Pope prepares to lead a Vespers service at Saint Patrick's Cathedral (“Pope Francis brings a voice of unwavering moral clarity on the need to protect the Earth. Simply put, caring for our planet and for the neediest among us is a responsibility we all share.

This week, the pope has made it clear that climate change is an urgent challenge and must be addressed without delay. The good news is that we now know that many actions that will slow climate change are consistent with those that will deliver economic benefits to society.

The pope’s message should inspire leaders of all backgrounds—in the U.S. and abroad—to take actions to protect the Earth, grow our economies, and enhance the resilience of the most vulnerable. As we head into the final sprint to the Paris climate summit, world leaders need to come together in the face of this global challenge.”

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