Pope Paul VI's Address to United Nations General Assembly

New York October 4, 1965

 

As We begin Our address to this audience, which is unique in the world, We wish first to express our profound gratitude to U Thant, your Secretary General, for the invitation which he extended to Us to visit the United Nations, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of this world institution for peace and for collaboration among the peoples of the entire earth.
Our thanks also go to Mr. Amintore Fanfani, President of the General Assembly, who has such kind words for Us on the day of his election.

We thank all of you here present for your kind welcome and We extend to each one of you Our cordial and deferential greetings. In friendship you have invited Us and admitted Us to this meeting; and it is as a friend that We appear before you.

In addition to Our personal greetings, We bring you those of the Second Ecumenical Council now meeting in Rome and represented here by the Eminent Cardinals who accompany Us.

In their name and in Our own, to each and every one of you, honour and greeting.

This encounter, as you well understand, is of a twofold nature: it is marked both with simplicity and with greatness. Simplicity, because you have before you a man like you, your brother, and indeed one of the smallest among you who represent sovereign States; for he is vested, if you wish to think of him as thus, with only a minuscule and, as it were, symbolic temporal sovereignty, only as much as is necessary to be free to exercise his spiritual mission and to assure those who deal with him that he is independent of every other sovereignty of this world. He has no temporal power, nor any ambition to compete with you. In fact, We have nothing to ask for, no question to raise. We have at most a desire to express and a permission to request: namely, that of serving you in so far as lies within Our competence, with disinterest, humility and love.

This is the first statement We have to give you. As you see, it is so simple that it may seem insignificant to this Assembly, which is accustomed to dealing with matters that are extremely important and difficult. However, We also said and all here today feel it that this moment is a singularly great one. It is a great moment for Us, a great one for you.

For Us. You know well who We are. Whatever may be the opinion you have of the Pontiff of Rome, you know Our mission. We are the bearer of a message for all mankind. And this We are, not only in Our own personal name and in the name of the great Catholic family, but also in the name of those Christian brethren who share the sentiments We express here, and particularly of those who kindly charged Us explicitly to be their spokesman here. Like a messenger who, after a long journey, finally succeeds in delivering the letter entrusted to him, We are conscious of living through a privileged moment, however brief, which fulfills a desire cherished in Our heart for nearly twenty centuries. For, you remember, We have been journeying long and We bring with Us a long history; We here celebrate the epilogue of a toilsome pilgrimage in search of a conversation with the entire world, from the day the command was given to Us: "Go and bring the good tidings to all peoples." And it is you who represent all peoples.

Let Us tell you that We have a message for all of you, a good message to deliver to each one of you.

SOLEMN RATIFICATION
Our message is meant to be, first of all, a moral and solemn ratification of this lofty institution. This message comes from Our historical experience. It is as an "expert in humanity" that We bring to this Organization the suffrage of Our recent Predecessors, that of the entire Catholic Episcopate, and Our own, convinced as We are that this Organization represents the obligatory path of modern civilization and of world peace.

In saying this, We feel We are speaking with the voice of the dead as well as of the living: of the dead who have fallen in the terrible wars of the past, dreaming of concord and world peace; of the living who have survived those wars, bearing in their hearts a condemnation of those who seek to renew them; and of those rightful expectation of a better humanity. And We also make Our own, the voice of the poor, the disinherited, the suffering; of those who long for justice for the dignity of life, for freedom, for well being and for progress. The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace. We presume to present here, together with Our own, their tribute to honour and of hope. That is why this moment is a great one for you also. We know that you are fully aware of this. Now for thecontinuation of Our message. It looks entirely towards the future. The edifice which you have constructed must never collapse; it must be continually perfected and adapted to the needs which the history of the world will present. You mark a stage in the development of mankind; from now on retreat is impossible; you must go forward.

A FORM OF COEXISTENCE
To the pluralism of States, which can no longer ignore one another, you offer an extremely simple and fruitful form of coexistence. First of all, you recognize and distinguish the one and the other. You do not confer existence upon States, but you qualify each single nation as fit to sit in the orderly assembly of peoples: you grant recognition, of high ethical and juridical value, to each sovereign national community, guaranteeing it an honourable international citizenship. This in itself is a great service to the cause of humanity namely, to define clearly and to honour the national subjects of the world community, guarenteeing it an honourable international citizenship. This in itself is a great service to the cause of humanity namely, to define clearly and to honour the national subjects of the world community, and to establish for them a juridical status which entitles them to be recognized and respected by all and from which an ordered and stable system of international life may develop. You give sanction to the great principle that relations between peoples should be regulated by reason, by justice, by law, by negotiation; not by force nor by violence; not by war, not by fear, not by deceit. This is as it should be. And permit Us to congratulate you on having had the wisdom to open this Assembly to the young peoples, to the States which have recently attained independence and national freedom. Their presence here is the proof of the universality and magnanimity which inspire the principles of this institution. This is as it should be. Such is Our praise and Our wish, and, as you see, We do not attribute them as from outside your institution. We derive them from within it, from its very spirit.

A BRIDGE BETWEEN PEOPLES
Your Charter goes still further, and do does Our message. You are an association. You are a bridge between peoples. You are a network of relations among States. We would be tempted to say that your chief characteristic is a reflection, as it were, in the temporal field of what Our Catholic Church aspires to be in the spiritual field: unique and universal. Among the ideals by which mankind is guided, one can conceive of nothing greater on the natural level. Your vocation is to make brothers not only of some, but of all peoples. A difficult undertaking? Unquestionably; but this is the undertaking, your very noble undertaking. Who does not see the necessity of arriving thus progressively at the establishment of the a world authority, able to act effectively on the juridical and political levels? Here again We repeat Our wish: Go forward. We will say further: strive to bring back among you those who have left you, and study the means of bringing into your convent of brotherhood, in honour and with loyalty, those who do not yet participate in it. Act so that those still outside will desire and merit the confidence of all; and then be generous in granting such confidence. You who have the good fortune and the honour to sit in this Assembly of peaceful community, hear Us. Never let the reciprocal trust which here unites you and enables you to do good and great things be undermined or betrayed. The logic of this wish, which, it may be said, pertains to the structure of your Organization, prompts Us to complete it with other formulas. Thus, let no one, as a Member of your union, be superior to the others: Never one above other. This is the formula of equality. We are well aware that there are other factors to consider besides simple membership in your Organization. But equality, too, is a part of its constitution: not that you are equal, but here you make yourselves equal. For several among you, this may be an act of high virtue: allow Us to say this to you, as the representative of a religion which effects salvation through the humility of its divine Founder. Men cannot be brothers if they are not humble. It is pride, no matter how inevitable it may seem to be, which provokes tensions and struggles of prestige, of predominance, of colonialism, of selfishness; it is pride that disrupts brotherhood.

NO MORE WAR, WAR NEVER AGAIN
And now We come to the high point of Our message: Negatively, first: the words which you expect from Us and which We cannot pronounce without full awareness of their gravity and solemnity: Never one against the other, never, never again. Was it not principally for this purpose that the United Nations came into being: against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man, the late John Kennedy, who declared four years ago: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." Long discourses are not necessary to proclaim the supreme goal of your institution. It is enough to remember that the blood of millions of men, numberless and unprecedented sufferings, useless slaughter and frightful ruin are the sanction of the covenant which unites you, in a solemn pledge which must change the future history of the world: No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind. Our thanks to you, glory to you, who for twenty years have labored for peace and who have even suffered the loss of illustrious men in this sacred cause. Thanks and glory to you for the conflicts which you have prevented and for those which you have brought to an end. The results of your efforts on behalf of peace, including the most recent, even if they are not yet decisive, are such as to deserve that We, presuming to interpret the sentiments of the whole world, express to you both praise and gratitude.

THE UN SCHOOL OF PEACE
Gentlemen, you have performed and you continue to perform a great work: the education of mankind in the ways of peace. The United Nations is the great school where that education is imparted, and We are today in the Assembly Hall of that school. Everyone taking his place here becomes a pupil and also a teacher in the art of building peace. When you leave this hall, the world looks upon you as the architects and the builders of peace. Peace, as you know, is not built solely by means of politics and the balance of forces and of interests. It is constructed with the mind, with ideas, with works of peace. You labor in this great construction. But you are still at the beginning of your labors. Will the world ever succeed in changing that selfish and bellicose mentality which, up to now, has woven so much of its history: It is hard to foresee, but it is easy to affirm that it is toward that new history, a peaceful, a truly and fully human history, as promised by God to men of goodwill, that we must resolutely set out. The roads lie well marked before you; the first one is that of disarmament.

DISARMAMENT ESSENTIAL TO BROTHERHOOD
If you wish to be brothers, let the weapons fall from your hands. One cannot love with offensive weapons in his hands. Those weapons, especially the terrible weapons that modern science has given you, long before they produce victims and ruins, cause bad dreams, foster bad feelings, create nightmares, distrust and somber resolves; they demand enormous expenditures; they obstruct projects of solidarity and useful work; they falsify the very psychology of peoples. As long as man remains that weak, changeable and even wicked being that he often shows himself to be, defensive arms will, unfortunately, be necessary. As for you, however, your courage and your work impel you to study ways of guaranteeing the security of international life without recourse to arms. This is an aim worthy of your efforts; this is what the peoples of the world expect of you; this is what you must achieve. And for this, unanimous confidence in this institution must increase, its authority must increase; and this goal, one may hope, will be attained. You will win the gratitude of all peoples, relieved as they will then be from the crushing expense of armaments and freed from the nightmare of an ever imminent war. We know and how could We fail to rejoice that many of you have looked with favour upon the invitation that, in the cause of peace, We addressed from Bombay last December to all States: to devote to the benefit of the developing countries at least a part of the savings which could be realized through the reduction of armaments. We here renew that invitation, trusting in your sentiments of humanity and generosity. In speaking of humanity and generosity, We are echoing another fundamental principle of the United Nations, which is its very summit, namely, that you work here not only to avert conflicts between States, but also to make States capable of working for each other. You are not content with facilitating mere coexistence between nations; you take a much greater step forward, one deserving of Our praise and Our support: you organize brotherly cooperation among peoples. In this way a system of solidarity is established, so that lofty civilized aims may win the orderly and unanimous support of all the family of peoples for the common good and for the good of each individual. This is the finest aspect of the United Nations; it is its most truly human aspect; it is the ideal that mankind dreams of on its pilgrimage through time; it is the world's greatest hope; it is, We presume to say, the reflection of the loving and transcendent design of God for the progress of the human family on earth a reflection in which We see the heavenly message of the Gospel. Here indeed We seem to hear the echo of the voice of Our Predecessors, and particularly of Pope John XXIII, whose message of "Pacem in Terris" received so honourable and significant a response among you. You proclaim here the fundamental rights and duties of man, his dignity, his freedom and above all his religious freedom. We feel that you thus interpret the highest sphere of human wisdom and, We would almost say, its sacred character. For you deal here above all with human life, and human life is sacred; no one may dare make an attempt upon it. Respect for life, even with regard to the great problem of the birth rate, must find here in your Assembly its highest affirmation and its most rational defence. Your task is to ensure that there is enough bread on the tables of mankind, and not to encourage an artificial control of births, which would be irrational, in order to diminish the number of guests at the banquet of life. It is not enough, however, to feed the hungry; it is necessary also to assure to each man a life that befits his dignity. This, too, you strive to achieve. Is this not the fulfillment before Our very eyes, and through your efforts, of that prophetic utterances applicable to your Institution: "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruninghooks" (Is. 2:4). Are you not using the prodigious energies of the earth and the magnificent inventions of science, no longer as instruments of death, but as tools of life for the new era of humanity? We know with what increasing intensity and effectiveness the United Nations and its related world agencies are working to assist Governments which need help to hasten their economic and social progress. We know how ardently you labor to overcome illiteracy and to promote culture throughout the world; to give men adequate and modern medical assistance; to employ in man's service the marvelous resources of science, technology and organization. All this is magnificent and merits everyone's praise and support, including Our own. We, too, would set an example, even though the smallness of Our means may hinder an awareness of its practical implication: We intend to give Our charitable institutions a new development in order to combat the hunger of the world and to meet its principle needs. It is thus, and in no other way, that peace can be built. One more word, Gentlemen, one last word: this edifice which you are constructing does not rest upon merely material and earthly foundations, for if so, it would be a house built upon sand; it rests above all on our own consciences. The hour has indeed struck for "conversion," for personal transformation, for interior renewal. We must get used to thinking of man in a new way; and of men's life in common in a new way; in a new way, too, of the paths of history and the destiny of the world, in accordance with the words of Saint Paul, to "put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:23).

APPEAL TO MAN'S MORAL CONSCIENCE
The hour has come for a halt, a moment of contemplation, of reflection, almost of prayer; a moment to think anew of our common origin, our history, our common destiny. Today, as never before, in an era marked by such human progress, there is need for an appeal to the moral conscience of man. For the danger comes, not from progress, nor from science on the contrary if properly utilized, these could resolve many of the grave problems which beset mankind. The real danger comes from man himself, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments, which can be used as well for destruction as for the loftiest conquests. In a word, then, the edifice of modern civilization must be built upon spiritual principles; the only principles capable not only of supporting it but also of enlightening and animating it. And these indispensable principles of superior wisdom must be founded this, as you know, is Our belief upon faith in God. That unknown God of whom Saint Paul spoke to the Athenians on the Areopagus? Unknown to them, although without realizing it, they sought Him and He was close to them, as happens to so many men of our times? For Us, in any case, and for all those who accept the ineffable revelation which Christ has given us of Him, He is the living God, the Father of all men.


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