Top: Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre delivers mediation. Left: Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, greets Secretary General António Guterres. Right: H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly and his wife Jarmila Hargašová, greet Rabbi Arthur Scheier, holocaust survivor and Founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.
On the eve of the start of a new General Assembly Session and 16th anniversary of 9/11, top UN Leaders joined Religious leaders to pray for peace for people around the world.
For the past 31 years, the UN diplomatic community has joined religious and ecumenical leaders for an annual Prayer Service on the eve of the opening of the General Assembly, hosted by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the Archdiocese of New York. This year, the prayer service fell on September 11th, so special prayers were offered to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, in addition to prayers for peace in the world and a fruitful 72nd session of the General Assembly.
In his meditation, Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre, expressed sorrow for the lives lost in the attack on the World Trade Center, noting the New York Times series that put faces to the names of those who died in the tragedy.
“Those who died on 9/11 still matter, still inspire us and are, mysteriously, still with us,” Bishop Barres said. “Each one of us here, the tens of thousands associated in the mission of peace of the United Nations, find in the 9/11 heroes’ ongoing witness a calling to expand our souls and our global vision of peace and justice in the world, and to commit ourselves anew to the sacrifices necessary to make that vision a reality.”
To fulfill this vision, he said, all who work for peace and justice must, likewise, see the human face of those who suffer around the world.
“The inherent ethical law inscribed in our humanity bears witness to human dignity and is the foundation for all human rights,” Bishop Barres said, drawing from the words of Pope Francis in his 2015 address to the General Assembly.
He asked the religious and international community leaders to take human dignity into account in all aspects their work, especially when seeking solutions for safe and regular migration and combating human trafficking.
“When human life is not recognized as inviolable, all barriers fall,” Bishop Barres said. “The tragic deaths of migrants fleeing war and conflict sadly become mere statistics that are easily forgotten and eventually consigned to the back rows of dusty archives.”
Secretary General António Guterres attended the Prayer Service for the first time as Secretary General of the United Nations. Guterres also expressed sorrow and solidarity in light of the tragic attacks of 9/11, which he said was not only an assault on New York and the United States, but impacted the entire world.
Guterres called attendees to emulate the example of those who, through compassion, are moved to serve others.
“Every day, in every country, innumerable acts of kindness and compassion are easing the lives of migrants, refugees, the victims of disasters, the poor and the powerless,” Guterres said. “These are the stories we must honor and draw inspiration from.”
He also emphasized the importance of linking solidarity and diversity.
“We may follow many faiths, but we all share a common ethical foundation – to treat humanity with humanity,” he said. “This is the message loudly conveyed by so many inspiring religious leaders.”
His Excellency Miroslav Lajčák dedicated his year as President of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly to the theme of “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All,” and, in his remarks, noted the important role faith-based communities play in embodying this theme.
“The UN is about people. Faith communities work for people every day.” Lajčák said. “They of course lend spiritual support and counsel. In many places of the world, however, they also provide essential, and even life-saving, services to people in need.”
Lajčák also said religious organizations play a key role in helping the UN fulfill its work of service to those most in need.
“Faith communities are - and must continue to be - a valuable partner to the UN,” Lajčák said. “I’ve heard stories of missionaries and religious leaders giving invaluable advice and help to UN colleagues in the field.”
Father Gerald Murray, the Pastor of the Church of the Holy Family where the prayer service took place, in his invocation drew upon the words of Pope Francis’ recent visit to Colombia in which he called for reconciliation and healing.
“Now is the time to heal wounds, to build bridges, to overcome differences,” Fr. Murray said. “It is time to defuse hatred, to renounce vengeance, and to open yourselves to a coexistence founded on justice, truth, and the creation of a genuine culture of fraternal encounter.”
To read the full remarks of each speaker, click here.