As always, the United Nations has a full agenda as it begins its 71st session of the General Assembly this week.
And, as always, the Vatican’s mission to the world body—officially the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See—is deeply involved in the U.N.’s efforts to promote peace, human rights and economic development around the globe.
From the traditional prayer service sponsored each year by the archdiocese and the Permanent Observer Mission at the start of the General Assembly to its campaigns against human trafficking, religious persecution and on other critical issues, the Holy See Mission has brought a welcome perspective to international discourse.
It’s a perspective rooted in the moral and ethical side of the issues at hand, one that reflects the teachings of the Catholic Church but applies to all members of the human family.
“We express our positions through the prism of the Catholic Church,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who heads the mission as the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio.
That is often an advantage because the Holy See “is seen as neutral on politics,” he said recently, and everyone understands that “it doesn’t have military or commercial interests to promote.”
Of course, member countries don’t universally embrace every position of the Holy See Mission, especially those involving the protection of human life at every stage, positions deemed “non-negotiable” by the Church.
That is the nature of cultural and political disagreement, however, and the U.N. is nothing if not a forum for those who disagree on any number of things to still have a place at the table.
That’s why we continue to support the U.N., and we join Pope Francis and his predecessors over the years who have sought to ensure that the Holy See keeps its place at the table. After all, the Holy See’s diplomatic corps is the longest serving in the world, tracing its beginnings to the fifth century at the Imperial Court in Constantinople.
In the present day, we see the U.N. as an important instrument in addressing many global crisis situations, including one that will get special attention at a U.N. summit conference at its Manhattan headquarters Sept. 19: The worldwide refugee and forced migration crisis, a crisis that is as much one of international security and peace as it is a humanitarian catastrophe.
Indeed, a June report by UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, found that a record 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015.
With that in mind, there were special prayers at the annual service offered Tuesday at Holy Family Church, the United Nations parish in Manhattan, for a solution to the ongoing crisis.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of the Miami Archdiocese, who has led the efforts of the U.S. bishops on migration, international justice and peace, gave a meditation at the invitation of Archbishop Auza, the nuncio.
For their efforts to address the refugee crisis and any number of others, we offer our prayers for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, the new president of the General Assembly; the diplomatic missions; and Archbishop Auza and his staff as they begin the new session.
Theirs is not an easy path, but it’s a noble one.