By Beth Griffin
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Pope Francis will address the United Nations Sept. 25 not as a political figure, a technical expert or a high U.N. official, but as a pastor, religious leader, prophet and father, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the world body said.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza suggested that Pope Francis will challenge world leaders to eradicate extreme poverty and protect people from mass atrocities and call upon them to act mercifully toward the downtrodden.
There can be no peace if development is not equitable, the archbishop said.
"Countries that have many blessings … will be summoned to assist those who do not yet have them to the same degree, or at all," he told reporters in a briefing Sept. 21.
The United Nations has experienced failures in protecting vulnerable populations, Archbishop Auza said.
"We have always said, ‘Never again!’ on every anniversary of every genocide and every mass atrocity, yet these same things are happening in our times before our very own eyes," he said.
Atrocities are a root cause of the current crisis of migration in Europe, the diplomat explained, yet only one-third of the arrivals are from areas of persecution.
Pope Francis is expected to stress that the globalization of solidarity is the antidote to the globalization of indifference, he added.
"If he speaks of human rights and dignity, it will be with the understanding that those blessed will full enjoyment of fundamental freedoms will feel solidarity to promote and protect the rights and dignity of those whose fundamental rights have been trampled, he said.
If the pope offers a word of encouragement about the Iran nuclear arms deal, Archbishop Auza said it will not be for political reasons but from a
conviction that nuclear weapons should be abolished. The agreement should be seen as an "example of what the international community can do when there is goodwill and dialogue," he said.
The prelate said the pope’s anticipated remarks on the environment can be best understood through his understanding of the need to bring mercy to the world, as expressed in his encyclical, "Laudato Si’," which stresses the connection among the dignity of human life, the need for fair and equal human development and the need to care for the environment.
The United Nations will raise the Vatican flag for the first time on Sept 25, so it will be flying when the pope arrives at U.N. headquarters in New York.
A resolution to fly the flags of permanent observers for the first time was introduced by Palestine, the only other permanent observer, and passed on Sept 10. The Holy See declined to co-sponsor the resolution, and Archbishop Auza said it originally did not intend to raise its flag for the papal visit.
"Things evolve," the archbishop said, and the Holy See accepted a U.N. proposal in mid-September to raise the flag without ceremony that morning at the same time other flags are raised, the nuncio said.
Archbishop Auza said the Holy See’s role in diplomacy dates back 2,000 years. Many of the Vatican’s contemporary efforts to mediate conflicts are not publicly disclosed, "until the time is right," he said.
The U.N. must learn to use "local actors" to prevent war and build peace, in much the same way the Holy See uses informal channels to develop the confidence and respect that support its role as a mediator, he said.
Pope Francis regularly abandons his prepared talks in favor of off-the-cuff remarks. His use of Spanish at the U.N. will enable him to fully express himself, Archbishop Auza said, adding however, "I would not expect him to have an extemporaneous speech to the United Nations, because that’s a very solemn occasion."