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Year 2016 in review

Thank you for your interest in the work of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN as we strive to uphold the dignity of every human being and advance peace and justice around the world. This year we have curated several highlights of the work of the Holy See Mission in 2016.


This year, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN delivered 73 interventions.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State

Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin joined world leaders gathered in Instanbul for the World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24. Cardinal Parolin delivered five statements, including a message from Pope Francis to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in which he stressed the need for upholding the dignity of the human persons at all stages of life and in vulnerable situations.

Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin joined the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN in New York City from September 19-22 to serve as Head of the Holy See Delegation to the Summit for Refugees and Migrants and to the General Debate of the Seventy-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly. During the High-Level week, Cardinal Parolin delivered 13 statements and interventions to world leaders at the UN, as well as civil society and the staff and friends of the Holy See Mission.

by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis  
and Head of the Holy See Delegation to the
 Summit for Refugees and Migrants and to the General Debate of the Seventy-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Gala Dinner of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation
Grand Ballroom, Waldorf Astoria, New York, Monday, 19 September 2016
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester, Pope and Martyr,
His Excellency Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic of France,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Rabbi Schneier, I bring you the prayerful best wishes of His Holiness Pope Francis! He extends his greetings of peace and prosperity to the Honorees of tonight's Appeal of Conscience Annual Dinner, in particular to the President of France, and to all the distinguished guests gathered here tonight to support the cause of the Foundation.

Pope Francis fully shares the conviction that a crime committed in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion itself. Last Wednesday, in a Mass for Fr. Jacques Hamel in the Vatican, Pope Francis said that to kill in the name of God is, in fact, satanic.

For more than fifty years now, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation has worked unceasingly to promote peace and mutual understanding, in the firm belief that freedom, democracy and human rights are fundamental values that give the nations of the world their best hope for peace, security and shared prosperity.

Rabbi Schneier, your work has been inspired by this conviction since your youth. We are, indeed, grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to meet here and reaffirm once again our belief in the fundamental good of living together in harmony and mutual acceptance. In the face of so much violent intolerance and radical exclusion in our days, there is an urgent need to show that in spite of all our cultural, religious, social and racial differences, we can and must live together in peace.

If I were to identify one golden thread tying all the words and actions of Pope Francis, it would be his insistence on the practice of encounter, of dialogue, of building bridges rather than walls, of globalizing solidarity as the antidote to a globalizing indifference. Dialogue is the answer to the monologue of the radical and the fundamentalist.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, by your presence you show that you, too, share this conviction: this conviction that requires of us to work tirelessly for justice and peace for all, with decisiveness and tenacity. As members of one human family, we share the ultimate goal of a reconciled world, a world in which all, without exception, enjoy the priceless common good that is peace.

Thank you and Good evening!
by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope Francis
 and Head of the Holy See Delegation to the
Summit for Refugees and Migrants and to the General Debate of the
Seventy-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly
offered by the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the Holy See
in honor of
His Eminence the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin
New York, Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Monsignor Auza,
Dear Friends of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations:
I have the privilege and pleasure to convey to you all the prayerful best wishes of Pope Francis. The Holy Father remains particularly grateful for all the help you extended to this Mission to make his visit to the United Nations and to New York in September 2015 enjoyable and fruitful. He knows the time and resources, dedication and friendship which you have given to this Mission, so that it can effectively fulfill its calling to communicate the bimillennial experience of the Catholic Church to humanity in every age, and to put this experience at the disposal of the United Nations, which represents par excellence all the nations and peoples of the world.

It is, therefore, a joy for me to meet you and have the opportunity above all to thank you personally, and on behalf of the Holy Father, for the valuable assistance that you have been giving to this Mission and, hence, to the Holy Father, the Holy See and the Catholic Church in general. In fact, like streams of water from all directions converging into one great river that flows to the sea, you, too, are an integral part of the whole team that works under the guidance and inspiration of our Universal Pastor, who, like a Good Shepherd and Father, seeks to lead us into green pastures and tranquil waters.

For billions of our sisters and brothers, however, our present world is not providing nutritious meadows and refreshing waters. The suffering humanity finds concrete faces and names in the tens of millions of refugees and migrants; in those who are victims of human trafficking and various forms of modern slavery; in those who are persecuted and discriminated against because of their religious belief or ethnic origin; in those women and children who are victims of all sorts of violence in conflict situations; in those who die from preventable diseases because they are deprived of the most basic health care services; in those who live in extreme poverty due to social injustices and the destruction of the environment.

The Holy Father is exhorting us and leading us by example to act and help alleviate the sufferings and pains of these brothers and sisters who have been and are left behind, and will be left behind even farther if we don't act. He rallies us to globalize solidarity as the antidote of a globalizing indifference.

Yesterday, the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants gathered hundreds of Heads of State and Government and other high-ranking State authorities, as well as heads of multilateral organizations. Faced with the phenomenon of very large movements of peoples, of a magnitude not seen since World War II, they committed themselves to ease the burdens of refugees and migrants and to address the root causes that drive them away from their homes and countries in search of safe harbors and protection.

It is, indeed, very sad to note that so much of the large movements of refugees and migrants these days are caused by situations of conflict and violence, persecutions and discrimination, poverty and social exclusion. It is even worse when we consider that, along the journey, migrants and refugees face the dangers of trafficking, starvation and all forms of abuse, and when, upon arriving at their destination, rather than finding a safe haven, sometimes and in some places they face discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism, suspicion, mistrust and a lack of policies regulating their acceptance.

Dear Friends,

I know that the Holy See Mission to the United Nations has been actively participating in the discussions on these grave international concerns. Thanks also to your financial support and constant encouragement, the Mission has been able to organize and sponsor conferences and other events in order to raise awareness of the sad plight of hundreds of millions of our suffering brothers and sisters, in particular the persecuted Christians and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as the forgotten and the marginalized.

These activities are expressions of the Holy Father's passionate solicitude for the voiceless and excluded. These are also concrete ways of collaborating with and influencing the United Nations. The Holy See has no political or economic aims; its vocation is to put her experience and vision of humanity to the service of the international community represented at the United Nations, assisting it in reaching its primary objectives of sparing our world from the scourge of wars, of promoting the rule of law and the respect for fundamental human rights, and of fostering human development and the care for our common home.

Dear friends,

I would like to thank you once again for the crucial help you give to the Holy See through this Mission to the United Nations. In the name of the Holy Father, I pray: God bless you and your loved ones!
by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
and Head of the Holy See Delegation to the
Summit for Refugees and Migrants and to the General Debate of the
Seventy-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly
offered by the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in honor of His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
New York, Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Monsignor Auza,
Members of the Staff, Experts and Friends of this Mission:
First of all, it is my privilege and pleasure to convey to you the prayerful best wishes of Pope Francis. The Holy Father remains particularly grateful for all that this Mission did to make his Visit to the United Nations and to New York in September 2015 so enjoyable and fruitful. He is fully aware of how much time and effort, dedication and love you put into your daily work, to make this Mission faithful to its calling to communicate the bimillennial experience of the Catholic Church to humanity in every age, and to place this experience at the disposal of the United Nations, which represents par excellence all the nations and peoples of the world.
It is therefore a great joy for me to be with you and for having the opportunity to share this lunch with you, and above all to thank you, on behalf of the Holy Father, for the valuable work you are doing for the Holy See and for the Catholic Church in general. Your work is important and I encourage you to continue doing all you can to help the Mission influence the United Nations Organization, an institution with global reach and ambitions.

You may be working very far from the Vatican, but you are an integral part of the whole team that works under the direction of our Holy Father for the greater good of humanity as a whole and the greater glory of God. Pope Francis, in his 2015 Address to the Roman Curia, thought of the Roman Curia as a small-scale model of the Church, as a “body” that strives every day to be more alive, to be healthier than ever, to be more and more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ.

Since you are called to share in the same spirit and inspiration to which those who are working in the Roman Curia are called, I trust that you and this Mission will also strive every day to be more like a “small Church” modelled after the Body of Christ, the Church. I am very pleased to know that each day this Mission begins with prayer in your beautiful chapel, which is a great means for you as a small church to make a “morning offering” of all your individual and collective work to God and to ask God's assistance to make that work fruitful.

When asking his collaborators to exercise professionalism and to be completely imbued with the spirit of service, the Holy Father also said that: “It would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers.”

On another occasion, he made it even clearer by saying, “There are saints in the Roman Curia, among the cardinals, priests, religious, sisters and laity. They work hard, and also do things that are often hidden. I know some who concern themselves with feeding the poor or who give up their free time to work in a parish”.
At the same time, when he addressed the Roman Curia,  our Holy Father also exhorted all concerned to be careful not to be contaminated by those vices that are common in hard working environments, such as activism, pride, rivalries and vainglory. This means not to forget prayer, reflection and the practice of human virtues. It also implies the constant exercise of mercy and solidarity with those in need, diligence and attentiveness in one's work, respect and gentleness toward all, and love in everything that we do, from the most ordinary to the most extraordinary activities.
Dear Friends and Collaborators,

As you have noticed in the exercise of your duties here, the Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations is different from the other Missions, not because of its status as an Observer State, but because of its nature. The Holy See has no political or economic aims; its vocation is to place her experience and vision of humanity at the service of the international community represented at the United Nations, assisting it in reaching its primary objectives of preserving our world from the scourge of wars, promoting respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and fostering human development and care for our common home.

The Holy See shares with the United Nations the commitment to ensure that every person and people in the world enjoy the right to religious freedom, to live in a peaceful world, to live free from want, hunger and thirst, and to enjoy a wholesome environment. The year 2015 was one of huge commitments taken at the level of the International Community, in particular the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Thanks to your diligent work, the Holy See was able to participate directly and actively in the negotiations leading to the adoption of these documents, thus enabling the Holy See to offer to the world community her own experience and perspective.

The current Seventy-First Session of the UN General Assembly is tasked with further advancing these very important commitments. The Holy Father is confident that this Mission will continue to contribute in the debates, in particular those related to the implementation of the far-reaching 2030 Agenda.

Moreover, we must not forget the sad plight of millions of refugees and migrants, of victims of human trafficking and various forms of modern slavery. Following the lead and the solicitude of the Holy Father, we must never cease to work toward making their situations more humane and in keeping with their human dignity. In every stranger we welcome, as Jesus reminds us in Saint Matthew's Gospel, we are embracing and assisting him.

Finally, as you are also well aware, the Holy See has reservations and disagreements with some decisions of agencies and programs of the United Nations on certain issues, especially those that concern respect for the sanctity of all human life and different aspects concerning marriage and family. Your service in reminding nations, UN institutions and other partners of the position of the Holy See on these and related issues is invaluable.
Dear friends,

I would like to thank you once again for the crucial help you give to the Holy See, through this Mission to the United Nations. I wish you every success in your specific field of expertise and as a member of the team!

In the name of the Holy Father, I pray: God bless you and your important work!
by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
 and Head of the Holy See Delegation to the
Summit for Refugees and Migrants and to the General Debate of the
Seventy-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, Church Center at the United Nations
21 September 2016
Breaking Bread: Forging a Faith-Inspired Path to Zero Hunger
Madame Executive Director of the World Food Programme,
Mr. Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization
Dear Friends,

I thank you, Mr. President, for your warm greeting and words of welcome. I am honored to speak at this event organized by Caritas Internationalis and Islamic Relief Worldwide in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme. I express my esteem for these Institutions in their day-to-day work and their generous commitment to guaranteeing decent living standards for all, especially access to essential means of subsistence in so many different areas and circumstances. Echoing the sentiments of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, I am convinced that the pressing issues of food security and zero hunger must be increasingly key priorities for international political action today.

The promotion and protection of the right to food is linked to the common desire to win as quickly as possible the battle against hunger and malnutrition. Statistics clearly indicate a reduction in economic resources being allocated to developing countries, whose poorest peoples have limited access to nourishment. It is a grave injustice to countless members of the human family. What is required is the establishment of an increasingly coordinated international response in the areas of production, fair and transparent distribution and the supply of foods —  one that will be best conveyed in a spirit of authentic and fraternal solidarity, not by force.
Owing to climate change, prolonged conflicts, and forced migration,  agricultural production continues to be limited in some regions.  In such places, however, we must oppose viewing food through the lens of a consumerist mentality and an uncurbed greed for market speculation. The basic commodities of life cannot be treated simply as any other kind of merchandise.

A faith-inspired vision to eliminate hunger can help to illustrate why generic appeals for cooperation and aid are not enough.  What ought we to do when faced with societies whose resources are in the hands of a few and that compel the least privileged to make do with crumbs? The answer must include a concerted commitment to the common good which, as Pope Francis has said, calls for “social peace, [and] the stability and security provided by a certain order that cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice” (Encyclical Laudato Si', n. 157).

To reach the zero hunger target, the international community must not only promote sustainable economic growth and political stability, but it must also seek to foster ethical, juridical and economic conditions that can promote efficient cooperation.  This will help engender relationships between peoples that are marked by equality and solidarity, even when there are varying levels of development. This is the only path that will restore the living conditions of our brothers and sisters who are suffering from famine and malnutrition or who are victims of poverty, with limited life expectancy. As Pope Francis said on the occasion of his visit to the World Food Programme Headquarters in Rome: “We allow our conscience to be anaesthetized, with the result that we become desensitized... Force then becomes our one way of acting and power becomes our only goal. Those who are most vulnerable not only suffer the effects of war but also see obstacles placed in the way of help. Hence it is urgent to debureaucratize everything that keeps humanitarian assistance projects from being realized... Initiatives of the international community must similarly be directed to this end” (Address to the Executive Board of the World Food Programme, 13 June 2016).

Sadly economic models and forms of international assistance are increasingly linked to a restrictive understanding of development; even in those places where assistance is offered, there is the risk that the harsh difficulties being experienced by people are getting ignored, and that the sufferings of the excluded and marginalized are being overlooked.  In short, there is an urgent need to reform an economic system that is presently based on quick and easy profit and financial speculation. We require an international economic system that gives moral priority to the development of every country and of every human person, in compliance with the duties we all have to our “common home,” to its preservation for present and future generations (Laudato Si', n. 22).
Dear Friends,

The goals of the 2010 Agenda for Sustainable Development underscore that hunger is a cruel and concrete sign of poverty.  Excessive consumption and the loss and wasting of food are no longer tolerable. A radical change in the way we live can be supported by a faith-inspired vision. The Catholic Church does not wish to interfere with the just autonomy of politics, the economy or technology, but she does feel a profound responsibility to remind these sectors that they are most respected, appreciated and noble when they serve the common good and the pressing needs of the poorest in the world.

In this Jubilee Year dedicated to the contemplation of divine mercy and to carrying out the works of mercy, I would like to invite all believers and persons of good will to rediscover a lively concern for our brothers and sisters, be they near or far, especially those who are suffering the terrible scourges of hunger and malnourishment.

The effort to ensure for every person the necessary daily bread is the most immediate and concrete sign of solidarity inspired by a renewed “spirit of mercy.”

Thank you for your attention.

of His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
and Head of the Holy See Delegation
 to the Summit for Refugees and Migrants and to the General Debate of the Seventy-First Session of the United Nations General
Fordham University, 22 September 2016
“Dignified agents of their own destiny”:
Pope Francis' Call for Escaping Poverty
Father McShane, President of Fordham University,
Mr Sugraynes, President of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation
Professor Schwalbenberg, Director of the “Graduate Program in
International Political Economy and Development”,
Mr Nalewajek, President of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation in the United States of America,
Distinguished Faculty Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very grateful to have been invited to address this distinguished audience at this “Dinner Event” during your course entitled “Dignified agents of their own destiny”.  I have been asked to speak on “Pope Francis' Call for Escaping Poverty”, and I shall attempt a brief overview of the crucial issue of poverty which is so dear to the Holy Father.

It is well known that the Holy Father's efforts to denounce and combat poverty are one of the main priorities of his Pontificate. This is clear when, at his election, he chose the name of the Saint of poverty, Francis of Assisi.  His Holiness wants a Church which is poor and works for the poor, in continuity with the Social Magisterium of the Church.  Indeed, a month before the opening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962, Pope Saint John XIII spoke of the Church as a house for everyone but particularly for the poor.

The preferential option for the poor in the Social Doctrine of the Church

This “preference” of the Catholic Church for the poor is a directive of the Social Doctrine of the Church, known as the preferential option for the poor.  It consists of a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness”.  This option — as Pope Francis reminded us in his Lenten Message of 2014 — “is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty”.  The Church, in imitating God who became poor for us, seeks to act in accordance with the preferential option for the poor.  It is an option that respects the dignity of every human person.

Indeed, when poverty is identified with material destitution — the lack of basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally — it offends the dignity of the human person created in the image of God.  Christians are called to help people in need, and to do so with respect for their dignity. Poverty is a problem that humanity cannot ignore, since the conditions in which a great number of people live is an affront to their God-given dignity and a threat to the world community and to peace.

Secondly, the Church's preference for the poor derives from the call to fraternity and communion.  It is rooted in our common heritage, in our relationship to the Incarnate Word, and in our universal vocation to sonship in God.  Thirdly, the Church acts in accordance with the preferential option for the poor by defending the right to life. As Pope Benedict said, “The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings” (World Day of Peace Message, 2009, 3). Moreover, poverty principally affects children. Indeed, as stated in UNICEF's Annual Report for 2014, since the current world economic crisis there are 2.6 million children below the poverty line in the world's most affluent countries, which brings the total number of children in the developed world living in poverty to an estimated 76.5 million.

The right to development

In his Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1991) Pope Saint John Paul II underlined the need “to abandon a mentality in which the poor — as individuals and as peoples — are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced” (no. 28).  The poor, he said, seek the right to share in the goods of this world and to use their abilities for employment, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all.  Recognizing the dignity of the poor, their capacity and their right to advancement, is indeed of the utmost importance. According to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “development is not only an aspiration but a right that, like every right, implies a duty” (no. 446).  In fact, it implies two corresponding duties: the duty to accomplish one's own development at all levels, and the duty to help others in their own development.  The need to cooperate, to work together in solidarity, is something we are all called to, and it consists in firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, for which we are all responsible (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis n. 38).

When it comes to putting this duty into practice, national governments have a fundamental role as they are responsible for establishing the necessary conditions for every citizen to fulfil themselves or, as Pindar expressed in one of his hymns, to “become what they are” (cfr. Pitiche, 2,72).  This has a direct bearing on the common good that we all seek to promote and protect.  Politics needs to regain a sense of vocation, a sense of love and responsibility in respecting the dignity of all persons.  As Pope Francis emphasized in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good” (no. 205).  Indeed, policies should offer and guarantee adequate conditions in the areas of education, health, water and sanitation, infrastructures, economics, culture, as well as in legislative, executive and judicial sectors.  When governmental policies succeed in establishing these conditions, we can speak of a “performative environment” which stimulates, improves and orients the capacity of human creativity for the good of all.
Pope Francis, moreover, acknowledges and appreciates the crucial role of business leaders in creating employment opportunities, thus also providing opportunities for the poor. In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si' he emphasizes need to provide employment for all, and insists on the need to promote an economy which favors productive diversity and business creativity.

The poor as dignified agents of their own destiny

Pope Francis is particularly sensitive to the gift of creativity in the many poor people who suffer injustice.  In October 2014, His Holiness invited representatives of grassroots movements around the world to meet in the Old Synod Hall of the Vatican. He did this in continuity with the preferential option for the poor.  As he said just a year later in his Address to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, in Bolivia, “Love for the poor is at the centre of the Gospel”. It was in his encounter in Bolivia with the movements that Pope Francis praised the creativity of the poor and expressed his belief that the future of humanity is to a great extent in their hands.  He encouraged them to continue believing in their  abilities to implement creative alternatives in their efforts to provide labour, housing and land.  He invited them to continue participating actively in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels, to benefit all peoples but especially those left behind by the world markets.  

Recognizing the talents of the poor, His Holiness also observes their particular capacity for sowing seeds of transformation, as they seek to make legislation more fair, and to promote the renewal of politics and the economy.  Indeed, when Pope Francis addressed the Second World Meeting of popular movements in Bolivia, he highlighted the role of the poor in peacefully combating the structural causes of poverty and inequality, unemployment, the lack of land and housing, and the denial of social and labour rights. This process of transformation toward an economy which reclaims the centrality of human dignity is the certain way to overcome the mentality of profit at any price.  It is a process which also prevails over the evils of social exclusion and the destruction of our common home.  In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis recalls that “time is greater than space”, simple words that reflect a deeply profound and meaningful principle: to work slowly but surely, calmly but diligently, free of the obsession with having quick results.

Pope Francis also notes the unique solidarity that exists among those who suffer, among the poor, among those whom our civilization seems to have forgotten. Solidarity, as the poor experience it, often means thinking and acting with respect to community. The poor thus teach us the true meaning of fraternity, solidarity and respect for the environment.

We can say, then, that the future of our human family lies in the capacity of human beings to be the artisans of their own communities.  We have the duty to provide them with the tools to fulfil this vocation.  It is a moral imperative which we cannot ignore, a profound duty to give to the poor what is theirs by right and to ensure that the goods of creation are available for all.

In their struggle against poverty, the poor must not be abandoned.  Just as they have the duty to work to ensure their own growth and development, it falls to us, religious leaders, politicians, business people, academicians, the Church faithful, and wealthier citizens to help the poor in their advancement. In this sense, a conversion of our hearts is needed: “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198).

Thank you.
by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
 for the UNESCO Tribute Award of the
“Heroes of the Global Campaign
to Prevent and Overcome Violent Extremism”

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
22 September 2016
Madame Director General,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honored to be with you tonight. I greet you warmly in the name of Pope Francis and would like to express his gratitude for UNESCO's recognition of the work of the Holy See in seeking to counter and prevent violent extremism, to care for those who have been victimized, and to build the conditions for lasting peace, which include social cohesion and justice, mutual understanding and dialogue, authentic fraternity and solidarity.
Violent extremism, as we know, is a complex phenomenon fueled by many factors. To respond to it adequately and to eradicate it, we must identify and address it at its roots, which include various socio-economic, political, cultural, psychological, relational, and ideological elements.
One of the most important remedies is education. The Catholic Church is privileged to be entrusted each year with the education of 40 to 50 million primary and secondary school children worldwide. More than 1,300 Catholic colleges and universities continue that mission, providing not just intellectual instruction, but human, spiritual, and charitable formation as well. And we offer this not just for Catholics, but for children and young of all faiths and no faith and from every economic stratum, with a particular preference for those from situations of poverty where educational opportunities are limited or even non-existent.
In this work of training minds to reason and hearts to serve, Catholic schools and universities, like those of other faith-based communities, are also strengthening society by forming responsible and generous citizens. This is especially important if we are to counter destructive the fraudulent narratives that engender radicalization, hatred and extremism.
At their best, Catholic educational institutions inculcate a respect for the dignity of every person, regardless of how small, handicapped, or vulnerable, or the person's sex, race, nationality or religion. They foster a culture of encounter and solidarity that makes neighbors sisters and brothers and that counters the growing social fragmentation, isolation, and misanthropy that undermine the foundations of social life. They preach and practice forgiveness and reconciliation. They categorically condemn evil, including the hatred of others supposedly in the name of religion. They help students to examine their own consciences and to root out the interior cancers, like envy, greed, pride and anger, that can metastasize to violence. They train students to strive to overcome evil with good, to do to others what they would want others to do to them, to to pray for the conversion of their persecutors and to leave vengeance to God. They show a special care, and strive to provide holistic remedy, for those children who manifest tendencies toward anger and force. And they model the type of interreligious respect and dialogue that forms graduates to be the peacemakers our world urgently needs.
What happens in Catholic schools and universities among the young is a microcosm of what the Catholic Church seeks at her best to do for the world: to form people, culture and society in those values that will lead to lasting peace and uproot those tendencies that foment xenophobia, hatred, and violence.
The Church promotes integral development — which involves personal, social, economic and environmental — since personal, social, economic and environmental injustices often provide a lot of fuel for outbursts of violence. The Church advances just war criteria and the Responsibility to Protect in order not just to limit the downward spiral of violence but to get those in responsibility to fulfill their duty to defend the rights of victims and hasten the process of peace. Through its involvement in interreligious and intercultural dialogue, the Church not only engages in something truly important in its own right but hopes thereby to provide a paradigm for all about the understanding, respect, trust and solidarity necessary for harmony, reconciliation and peace in every circumstance.
Through all of these means, the Church strives to address the social wounds that, left untreated, can serve as a breeding ground for radicalization, and fulfill the mission given to her by Jesus Christ to be salt of the earth, light of the world, and leaven lifting the world up.
Please permit me to conclude and, in a sense, summarize by letting you know that in his forthcoming Message for the fiftieth World Day of Peace that will take place next January first, Pope Francis will stress that “violence and peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society.”[1] To build peace rather than violence requires that, like the builders of the great Medieval cathedrals, we must with patience and perseverance lay down strong foundations and place upon the solid stones of multiple acts of peace. This is what the Church seeks to do in her educational, charitable and interreligious mission so that, like those great ecclesiastical edifices, we might with others build something beautiful and lasting in which all people can find the respite, peace, strength and courage needed to transcend violence and make within our common home a more harmonious and loving family.
I thank you once again, Madame Director General, for this honor and for UNESCO's collaboration in this joint and ever urgent, worldwide, cultural building project.
1. Theme of the 50th World Day of Peace (1 January 2017), News Bulletin of the Holy See's Press Office, 26 August 2016.


In 2016, the Holy Mission held 16 events at the UN.

On March 22, those who care for victims of rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Iraq shared stories of the horrors sexual violence women endure in regions of conflict and urged the international community for assistance at a side event hosted by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York during the Commission on the Status of Women. Archbishop Auza said that although all violence against human life is reprehensible, the nature of sexual violence to dehumanize and demoralize, particularly women and girls, makes it especially malevolent.

One of the most common forms of discrimination against women in African countries is the relative lack of basic healthcare, most notably concerning healthy pregnancies and deliveries, according to experts at a March 17 panel discussion entitled Best Practices for Maternal Healthcare in Africa to inform the group of advocates and diplomats present at the 60th Commission on the Status of Women of the maternal healthcare needs on the ground in Africa.

On April 7, more than 500 attendees and 20 speakers gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York for a major conference the Holy See Mission convened on the theme of “Ending Human Trafficking by 2030: The Role of Global Partnerships in Eradicating Modern Slavery." Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN Archbishop Bernardito Auza moderated the Conference and read a special letter Pope Francis wrote for the event, in which he urged speakers and attendees to focus on the most vulnerable victims of the scourge of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Survivors, advocates of those persecuted by violent extremists because of religious belief  and experts on genocide united on April 28 at an event entitled “Defending Religious Freedom and Other Human Rights: Stopping Mass Atrocities Against Christians and Other Believers,” sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN at the Economic and Social Chamber of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

On June 1, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations hosted an event entitled “The Importance of Motherhood and Fatherhood” in observance of the fourth commemoration of the Global Day of Parents, which the UN General Assembly initiated in 2012 to shine light on and celebrate the role of parents in the family and society.

During a series of events, including an Exhibit and side event entitled "Leaving No One Behind: Mother Teresa's Enduring Message for the International Community Today," at the UN following Mother Teresa's September 4 canonization by Pope Francis, those who knew her said that she exemplifies the virtues that all those working for peace, to leave no one behind, and to lift the poor out of extreme poverty need to achieve those noble objectives.

On September 13, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the 70th Session of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, and the President-elect of the 71st Session Ambassador Peter Thomson gathered at Holy Family Parish for the Annual Prayer Service on the occasion of the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations, along with many Permanent Representatives, heads of UN agencies and other members of the UN community, together with religious and ecumenical leaders in the New York area, sponsored by the Holy See Mission and the Archdiocese of New York.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope Francis, illustrated the numerous struggles refugees and migrants face on a journey he said is often involuntary, caused by conflict, persecution, poverty, and environmental degradation, during his keynote address at the September 19 side event entitled Responsibility and Solution Sharing: The Role of Religious Organizations in Responding to Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants" during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants

"What started with the burning of synagogues, led to the burning of human beings, including my family whose graveyard is Auschwitz,” Rabbi Arthur Schneier said among a panel of interfaith leaders at a September 20 Ministerial Side Event entitled “Upholding the Responsibility to Protect: The Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Atrocity Crimes,” sponsored by the Holy See Mission.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope Francis, said the complex psychological, socio-economic, political and ideological elements that lead individuals, especially young people, to join extremist groups must be addressed, and faith based groups have a key role to play, at a September 20 high-level side event entitled "Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism through Education,” that the Holy See co-sponsored together with the Permanent Missions of Albania, the U.S., Jordan, Morocco to the United Nations and UNESCO.

Path to Peace Gala Dinner

On the occasion of its 25th annual Gala Dinner on October 12, the Path to Peace Foundation presented the 2016 Path to Peace Award to the Knights of Columbus and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson for their work on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, especially those persecuted by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

See more photos on the Path to Peace Facebook page.



Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace

1 January 2017

1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world's peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.

This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress — and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.


A broken world

2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.


The Good News

3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ's message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God's unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God's mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]

To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This 'more' comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God's love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one's enemy constitutes the nucleus of the 'Christian revolution'”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil..., but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]


More powerful than violence

4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don't need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace — just get together, love one another... And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded... She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes — the crimes! — of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission — and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons — was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.

The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]

The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]


The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence

5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God's mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]


My invitation

6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church's continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.

This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.


In conclusion

7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]


From the Vatican, 8 December 2016



[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.

[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.

[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.

[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.

[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.

[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.

[10] No. 23.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.

[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.

[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.

[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.

[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.

[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.

[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.

[19] Encyclical Laudato Si', 230.

[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.

[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si', 16, 117, 138.

[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.

[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.

[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.

[25] Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.