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United Nations

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

During the General Assembly of the United Nations, it was mentioned that the forum had beheld saints. One of them was, St. Paul VI, who in 1965 became the first pope to address that body. I share with you a fragment of Pope’s address to the UN General Assembly.

“Permit us to say that we have a message, and a happy one, to hand over to each one of you…

In saying this, we are aware that we are speaking for the dead as well as the living: for the dead who have fallen in the terrible wars of the past, dreaming of world peace and harmony; for the living who have survived the wars and who in their hearts condemn in advance those who would try to have them repeated; for other living people, too: the younger generation of today who are moving ahead trustfully with every right to expect a better mankind. We also want to speak for the poor, the disinherited, the unfortunate, those who long for justice, a dignified life, liberty, prosperity and progress…

You are teaching men peace. The United Nations is the great school where people get this education and we are here in the assembly hall of this school. Anyone who takes his place here becomes a pupil and a teacher in the art of building peace. And when you go outside of this room, the world looks to you as the architects and builders of peace…

What you are proclaiming here are the basic rights and duties of man, his dignity, his liberty and above all his religious liberty. We feel that you are spokesmen for what is loftiest in human wisdom – we might almost say its sacred character – for it is above all a question of human life, and human life is sacred; no one can dare attack it. It is in your Assembly, even where the matter of the great problem of birth rates is concerned, that respect for life ought to find its loftiest profession and its most reasonable defense. Your task is so to act that there will be enough bread at the table of mankind and not to support an artificial birth control that would be irrational, with the aim of reducing the number of those sharing in the banquet of life.

But it is not enough to feed the hungry. Each man must also be assured a life in keeping with his dignity, and that is what you are striving to do. Is this not the fulfillment before our eyes, and thanks to you, of the prophet’s words that apply so well to your Institution:” They shall beat their swords into pruning-hooks” (Is. 2:4)? Are you not employing the prodigious forces of the earth and the magnificent inventions of science no longer as instruments of death, but as instruments of life for the new era of mankind?…

We know with what ardor you are working to conquer illiteracy and to spread culture in the world, to give men modern health service adapted to their needs, to put the marvelous resources of science, technology, and organization at the service of man. All this is magnificent and deserves everyone’s praise and support including our own…

One word more, Gentlemen, one last word. The edifice you are building does not rest on purely material and terrestrial foundations, for in that case it would be a house built on sand. It rests most of all upon consciences. Yes, the time has come for “conversion,” for personal transformation, for interior renewal. We have to get used to a new way of thinking about man, a new way of thinking about man’s community life, and, last of all, a new way of thinking about the pathways of history and the destinies of the world. As St. Paul says, we must “put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23).

The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, you might say of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never before been as necessary as it is today, in an age marked by such great human progress. For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well they can, on the contrary, help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind. The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests.

To put it in a word, the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it and inspiring it. And we are convinced, as you know, that these indispensable principles of higher wisdom cannot rest on anything but faith in God. Is He the unknown God of whom St. Paul spoke to the Athenians on the Areopagus – unknown to those who, without suspecting it, were nevertheless looking for Him and had Him close beside them, as is the case with so many men of our times? For us, in any case, and for all those who accept the ineffable revelation that Christ has made to us of Him, He is the living God, the Father of all men.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid