Remarks of His Excellency Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
Permanent Observer of The Holy See
Prayer Service on the Occasion of
The Opening of the Sixty-Seventh Session
of The United Nations General Assembly
Holy Family Church
New York City, 17 September 2012
Your Eminence, Cardinal Egan,
Your Excellencies, Mr. Secretary-General,
Mr. President of the 66th Session Session of the General Assembly,
Mr. President of the 67th Session of the General Assembly,
Mr. Deputy Secretary-General,
Distinguished Permanent Representatives, Permanent Observers,
and members of the Diplomatic Corps and UN officers,
Dear religious leaders, brothers and sisters, friends.
It gives me great joy to greet and welcome you all to this annual Prayer Service, to pray with you, to implore God’s mercy for a share in Divine assistance and wisdom—for we know that Divine assistance is accessible to those who rely not only on human wisdom but God’s wisdom, as well. In particular, I extend a cordial welcome to His Excellency the Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon and Mrs. Ban Soon-taek. I also heartily welcome and express my felicitations to the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Mrs. Muna Ghassan Tamim Rihani. Allow me to congratulate once again His Excellency Mr. Vuk Jeremic as he is about to begin his presidency of the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly. I welcome you and your wife Mrs. Nataša Jeremic. My best wishes also to the Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson. We wish you, Mr. Deputy Secretary-General all the best.
It is always a great encouragement to see at this spiritual gathering so many Permanent Representatives and Mission staff, high ranking officials of the UN System and Agencies, as well as representatives of a wide variety of non-governmental organizations. I am pleased to welcome cordially the many friends and well-wishers of the Holy See Mission. You see, all of us are united in the same enterprise to advance the human dignity that belongs to all of humanity.
Over the years we have grown to depend on the cheerful shepherding of Father Robert Robbins. This year we bid him adieu as Cardinal Dolan has called him to work full time at Headquarters as the Director of the Office for Community Outreach. Father, we are ever grateful for your every kindness and act of generosity as our host over the years. This parish has served well many of the United Nations community, and I am confident it will continue to do so. And I extend a hearty welcome to the new pastor of the Church of the Holy Family, Fr. Gerry Murray.
Welcome also to all the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful assembled in this beautiful church of the Holy Family and all the members of other Churches, ecclesial communities and followers of other religious traditions who are here with us. You are indeed welcome.
The protection and promotion of authentic human rights is an important element of the work of the United Nations. The Charter of this noble institution says so. However, some human rights are less protected or not protected at all when so-called new, subjectively determined rights are given precedence. Religious freedom is one of the authentic rights. However, today, religion, along with the freedom to express it in the public square, continues to be under attack and its freedom threatened. The ‘demand for this freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society ... For believers, religious freedom is necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God and to serve their fellow human beings, and therefore it has to be immune from coercion in civil society’ (cf. DH, 1). All believers have, therefore, the task to make more visible and relevant the truths, values and teachings of genuine religion to our present day society, denouncing any sort of “violent fundamentalism claiming to be based on religion” (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, #29). Besides, there is a real need today for “the religions of the world to engage in a dialogue of mutual understanding and peace on the basis of the values they share. These values are not just humanitarian or humanistic – they belong to the realm of the deeper truths affecting the life and destiny of every human being in this world” (cf. NA, 1). Moreover, when faithful people from these religions come together as brothers and sisters to address the real needs of the human person, the common good is promoted. This is conducive to the work of the United Nations.
As the global community begins preparations to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014, the Catholic Church also anticipates the 50th Anniversary of the Pope John XXIII’s encyclical letter Pacem in Terris on establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity and liberty. Blessed Pope John called for those with “outstanding wisdom and influence [to] give serious thought to the problem of achieving a more human adjustment of relations between States” (PT, 118), something that comes only through building mutual trust and confidence, settlement of conflicts using peaceful means such as effective mediation, sincerity and good faith in negotiations, and firm resolve to fulfill our commitment. Moreover, he reminded us of the essential role of the natural law, and the moral precepts that are integral to it, in the development of international legal norms.
With that in mind, I take this opportunity to wish you all a successful and fruitful 67th Session of the General Assembly and to convey to you the following words of encouragement and blessing from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to all of us gathered for this evening’s Prayer Service:
Thank you and God bless you.
HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI SENDS CORDIAL GREETINGS TO ALL TAKING PART IN THE PRAYER SERVICE HELD ON THE EVE OF THE SIXTY-SEVENTH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY. HE WILLINGLY JOINS THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC COMMUNITY, THE OFFICERS AND STAFF OF THE UNITED NATIONS, AND THE VARIOUS CIVIC AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS PRESENT IN ASKING ALMIGHTY GOD TO GUIDE AND SUSTAIN THE WORK OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN THE SERVICE OF INTERNATIONAL PEACE, AUTHENTIC HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT.
IN A PARTICULAR WAY, HE TRUSTS THAT THE HIGH-LEVEL MEETING PRECEDING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, BY REFLECTING ON THE NATURE AND CONDITIONS OF THE RULE OF LAW, WILL LEAD TO A RECOGNITION THAT THE ULTIMATE FOUNDATION OF EVERY JURIDIC SYSTEM RESTS ON A MORAL LAW GROUNDED IN OUR COMMON NATURE AND IN THE INVIOLABLE DIGNITY PROPER TO EACH MEMBER OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.
UPON ALL THOSE ASSOCIATED WITH THE NEW SESSION, AND THOSE GATHERED FOR THIS ANNUAL MOMENT OF REFLECTION AND PRAYER, THE HOLY FATHER WILLINGLY INVOKES THE DIVINE BLESSINGS OF WISDOM, STRENGTH AND PEACE.
CARDINAL TARCISIO BERTONE
SECRETARY OF STATE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI