Pope Francis Addresses
UN General Assembly
NEW YORK — On the fifth anniversary of his first visit to the United Nations, Pope Francis addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the second time this morning.
Unlike his first visit, given in a packed General Assembly Hall with six-delegates per country, the balcony and VIP sections filled and many delegates having snuck in to stand on the sides of the 1,780 person chamber, this second address, because of COVID-19 restrictions at the United Nations, was given via pre-recorded video message played live to only one-delegate per country able to be present within.
In his remarks, delivered in Spanish with simultaneous translation into the five other UN languages, Pope Francis said that the 75th anniversary of the United Nations offered "a fitting occasion to express once again the Holy See’s desire that this Organization increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family."
He focused heavily on the lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the choices that States and individuals must make as a consequence, choices between co-responsibility and solidarity or individualism and isolation.
"We never emerge from a crisis just as we were," he said. "We come out either better or worse." He said that the present pandemic has forced the world to think clearly about how we want to emerge and has shown us that we "cannot live without one another, or worse still, pitted against one another."
He also spoke in depth about issues of work and employment, humanitarian crises, fundamental human rights, persecution of religious believers, the vulnerable situation of people on the move, care for the poor, ecological sensitivity and action, the needs of children, the protection of the family, the advancement of women, threats to peace and security, nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and prohibition,
The English translation of his remarks follows below. To read his remarks in the Spanish original, please click here and scroll to the bottom.
Those who would like to view his remarks may do so on the YouTube Channel of the Holy See Mission.
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
to the Seventy-Fifth Session of the
United Nations General Assembly
September 25, 2020
Peace be with all of you!
I offer cordial greetings to you, Mr President, and to all the Delegations taking part in this significant Seventy-fifth Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly. In particular, I greet the Secretary General, Mr António Guterres, the participating Heads of State and Government, and all those who are following the General Debate.
The seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations offers me a fitting occasion to express once again the Holy See’s desire that this Organization increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family.
In these days, our world continues to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the loss of so many lives. This crisis is changing our way of life, calling into question our economic, health and social systems, and exposing our human fragility.
The pandemic, indeed, calls us “to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing, a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not”. It can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources. On the other hand, the pandemic can be the occasion for a “defensive retreat” into greater individualism and elitism.
We are faced, then, with a choice between two possible paths. One path leads to the consolidation of multilateralism as the expression of a renewed sense of global co-responsibility, a solidarity grounded in justice and the attainment of peace and unity within the human family, which is God’s plan for our world. The other path emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail.
The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to promote public health and to make every person’s right to basic medical care a reality. For this reason, I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick. If anyone should be given preference, let it be the poorest, the most vulnerable, those who so often experience discrimination because they have neither power nor economic resources.
The current crisis has also demonstrated that solidarity must not be an empty word or promise. It has also shown us the importance of avoiding every temptation to exceed our natural limits. “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we canput it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral”. This also needs to be taken into careful consideration in discussions on the complex issue of artificial intelligence (AI).
Along these same lines, I think of the effects of the pandemic on employment, a sector already destabilized by a labour market driven by increasing uncertainty and widespread robotization. There is an urgent need to find new forms of work truly capable of fulfilling our human potential and affirming our dignity. In order to ensure dignified employment, there must be a change in the prevailing economic paradigm, which seeks only to expand companies’ profits. Offering jobs to more people should be one of the main objectives of every business, one of the criteria for the success of productive activity. Technological progress is valuable and necessary, provided that it serves to make people’s work more dignified and safe, less burdensome and stressful.
All this calls for a change of direction. To achieve this, we already possess the necessary cultural and technological resources, and social awareness. This change of direction will require, however, a more robust ethical framework capable of overcoming “today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste”.
At the origin of this “throwaway culture” is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today’s society. Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself.
It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity. The list of such violations is indeed lengthy, and offers us a frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future. As part of this picture, religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs. We Christians too are victims of this: how many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering, forced at times to flee from their ancestral lands, cut off from their rich history and culture.
We should also admit that humanitarian crises have become the status quo, in which people’s right to life, liberty and personal security are not protected. Indeed, as shown by conflicts worldwide, the use of explosive weapons, especially in populated areas, is having a dramatic long-term humanitarian impact. Conventional weapons are becoming less and less “conventional” and more and more “weapons of mass destruction”, wreaking havoc on cities, schools, hospitals, religious sites, infrastructures and basic services needed by the population.
What is more, great numbers of people are being forced to leave their homes. Refugees, migrants and the internally displaced frequently find themselves abandoned in their countries of origin, transit and destination, deprived of any chance to better their situation in life and that of their families. Worse still, thousands are intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention camps, where they meet with torture and abuse. Many of these become victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery or forced labour, exploited in degrading jobs and denied a just wage. This is intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many!
The numerous and significant international efforts to respond to these crises begin with great promise – here I think of the two Global Compacts on Refugees and on Migration – yet many lack the necessary political support to prove successful. Others fail because individual states shirk their responsibilities and commitments. All the same, the current crisis offers an opportunity for the United Nations to help build a more fraternal and compassionate society.
This includes reconsidering the role of economic and financial institutions, like that of Bretton-Woods, which must respond to the rapidly growing inequality between the super-rich and the permanently poor. An economic model that encourages subsidiarity, supports economic development at the local level and invests in education and infrastructure benefiting local communities, will lay the foundation not only for economic success but also for the renewal of the larger community and nation. Here I would renew my appeal that “in light of the present circumstances… all nations be enabled to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.
The international community ought to make every effort to put an end to economic injustices. “When multilateral credit organizations provide advice to various nations, it is important to keep in mind the lofty concepts of fiscal justice, the public budgets responsible for their indebtedness and, above all, an effective promotion of the poorest, which makes them protagonists in the social network”. We have a responsibility to offer development assistance to poor nations and debt relief to highly indebted nations.
“A new ethics presupposes being aware of the need for everyone to work together to close tax shelters, avoid evasions and money laundering that rob society, as well as to speak to nations about the importance of defending justice and the common good over the interests of the most powerful companies and multinationals”. Now is a fitting time to renew the architecture of international finance.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to address the General Assembly in person on its seventieth anniversary. My visit took place at a time marked by truly dynamic multilateralism. It was a moment of great hope and promise for the international community, on the eve of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Some months later, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was also adopted.
Yet we must honestly admit that, even though some progress has been made, the international community has shown itself largely incapable of honouring the promises made five years ago. I can only reiterate that “we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges”.
I think of the alarming situation in the Amazon and its indigenous peoples. Here we see that the environmental crisis is inseparably linked to a social crisis, and that caring for the environment calls for an integrated approach to combatting poverty and exclusion.
To be sure, the growth of an integral ecological sensitivity and the desire for action is a positive step. “We must not place the burden on the next generations to take on the problems caused by the previous ones… We must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, as well as to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations who suffer from them the most”.
The Holy See will continue to play its part. As a concrete sign of the Holy See’s commitment to care for our common home, I recently ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
We cannot fail to acknowledge the devastating effects of the Covid-19 crisis on children, including unaccompanied young migrants and refugees. Violence against children, including the horrible scourge of child abuse and pornography, has also dramatically increased.
Millions of children are presently unable to return to school. In many parts of the world, this situation risks leading to an increase in child labour, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition. Sad to say, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called “essential services” provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic. It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.
I urge civil authorities to be especially attentive to children who are denied their fundamental rights and dignity, particularly their right to life and to schooling. I cannot help but think of the appeal of that courageous young woman, Malala Yousafzai, who speaking five years ago in the General Assembly, reminded us that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”.
The first teachers of every child are his or her mother and father, the family, which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society”. All too often, the family is the victim of forms of ideological colonialism that weaken it and end up producing in many of its members, especially the most vulnerable, the young and the elderly, a feeling of being orphaned and lacking roots. The breakdown of the family is reflected in the social fragmentation that hinders our efforts to confront common enemies. It is time that we reassess and recommit ourselves to achieving our goals.
One such goal is the advancement of women. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women. At every level of society, women now play an important role, offering their singular contribution and courageously promoting the common good. Many women, however, continue to be left behind: victims of slavery, trafficking, violence, exploitation and degrading treatment. To them, and to those who forced to live apart from their families, I express my fraternal closeness. At the same time, I appeal once more for greater determination and commitment in the fight against those heinous practices that debase not only women, but all humanity, which by its silence and lack of effective action becomes an accomplice in them.
We must ask ourselves if the principal threats to peace and security – poverty, epidemics, terrorism and so many others – can be effectively be countered when the arms race, including nuclear weapons, continues to squander precious resources that could better be used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment.
We need to break with the present climate of distrust. At present, we are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism, which is all the more serious in light of the development of new forms of military technology,such as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) which irreversibly alter the nature of warfare, detaching it further from human agency.
We need to dismantle the perverse logic that links personal and national security to the possession of weaponry. This logic serves only to increase the profits of the arms industry, while fostering a climate of distrust and fear between persons and peoples.
Nuclear deterrence, in particular, creates an ethos of fear based on the threat of mutual annihilation; in this way, it ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing dialogue. That is why it is so important to support the principal international legal instruments on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and prohibition. The Holy See trusts that the forthcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will result in concrete action in accordance with our joint intention “to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament”.
In addition, our strife-ridden world needs the United Nations to become an ever more effective international workshop for peace. This means that the members of the Security Council, especially the Permanent Members, must act with greater unity and determination. In this regard, the recent adoption of a global cease-fire during the present crisis is a very noble step, one that demands good will on the part of all for its continued implementation. Here I would also reiterate the importance of relaxing international sanctions that make it difficult for states to provide adequate support for their citizens.
We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse. This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project. A complex task lies before us, one that requires a frank and coherent dialogue aimed at strengthening multilateralism and cooperation between states. The present crisis has further demonstrated the limits of our self-sufficiency as well as our common vulnerability. It has forced us to think clearly about how we want to emerge from this: either better or worse.
The pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still, pitted against one another. The United Nations was established to bring nations together, to be a bridge between peoples. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together, once more, the future we all desire.
God bless you all!
Thank you, Mr. President.
Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25 September 2015; BENEDICT XVI, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 18 April 2008.
Meditation during the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer in the Time of Pandemic, 27 March 2020.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25.1.
Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 112.
Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 25 September 2015.
Urbi et Orbi Message, 12 April 2020.
Address to the Participants in the Seminar“New Forms of Solidarity”, 5 February 2020.
Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 25 September 2015.
Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 139.
Message to the Participants in the Twenty-Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1 December 2019.
Message to the Thirty-first Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, 7 November 2019.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16.3.
Address on Nuclear Weapons, Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, Nagasaki, 24 November 2019.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Preamble.
SEMPER PARATI — Various staff members and interns of the Holy See Mission staff in the Mission conference room in anticipation of watching together the address of Pope Francis to the UN General Assembly. (L-R: Msgr. Hilary Franco, Francesco Teruggi, David Lewandowski, Juan Francisco Pain, Msgr. Fredrik Hansen, Mother Teodora Juan, Thomas Murphy, and Jean Maloney.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Speaks to Summit
Marking the 75th Anniversary
of the United Nations
For the September 21, 2020 High-Level Summit of the United Nations General Assembly to Commemorate the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the UN, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, prepared a pre-recorded intervention from the Vatican.
All statements from Heads of State and Heads of Government were delivered via pre-recorded messages because of travel restrictions to New York during COVID-19.
In his remarks, Cardinal Parolin said that for 75 years, peoples of the world have turned to the United Nations as a source of hope for peace, human dignity, integral development, and the advancement of justice in application of the pillars of the UN Charter.
Since becoming an Permanent Observer State in 1964, the Holy See has taken an active role in urging the UN to be a “moral center” where the family of nations convenes in a spirit of fraternity, solidarity and multilateral cooperation, he said.
COVID-19 has highlighted, he added, the need for collaboration to overcome a global plague. He summarized various of the successes of the UN since its inception and noted that there have also been “challenges and setbacks, even contradictions and failures” when the UN has not lived up to its name and ideals.
The UN is in perpetual need of revitalizing the application of the principles of purposes of the Charter, he stated, to respond to the undiminished hopes of the people of the world.
The text of the intervention follows. To watch his intervention, please visit the Holy See Mission YouTube page.
Address of His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of the Holy See
to the Summit of the United Nations General Assembly
To Commemorate the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary
of the United Nations
September 21, 2020
I am pleased to participate in this virtual high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and to reiterate the Holy See’s support for this prestigious Institution.
For the past 75 years, the peoples of the world have turned to the United Nations as a source of hope for world peace and harmony among States. To this Organization they have brought the desire for an end to conflict and strife, greater respect for the dignity of the human person, the alleviation of suffering and poverty and the advancement of justice: an expression of an underlying expectation of the United Nations that this Organization would not only affirm the ideals on which it was founded, but would labor with ever-greater resolve to make these ideals a reality in the life of every woman and man.
Since its recognition as an Observer State in 1964, the Holy See has supported and taken an active role within the United Nations. Successive Popes have come before this General Assembly urging this noble Institution to be a “moral center” where every country is at home, where the family of nations convenes and where the international community — in a spirit of human fraternity and solidarity — advances together with multilateral solutions to global challenges. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear, we cannot go on thinking only of ourselves or fostering divisions; rather, we must work together to overcome the world’s worst plagues, mindful that the burden carried by some necessarily affects humanity and the whole family of Nations.
Over these 75 years, the UN has protected and served international law, promoting a world based on the rule of law and justice rather than on weapons and might. The UN has brought food to the starving, built homes for those without, has committed itself to the protection of our common home and has advanced a world of integral human development. The UN has strived to champion universal human rights, which also include the right to life and freedom of religion, as they are essential for the much needed promotion of a world where the dignity of every human person is protected and advanced. The Organization has worked to end war and conflict, to repair what violence and strife have destroyed and to bring opposing sides to the table so that, together, diplomacy and negotiation may win the day.
There have been challenges and setbacks, even contradictions and failures. The United Nations is not perfect and it has not always lived up to its name and ideals, and it has harmed itself whenever particular interests have triumphed over the common good. The United Nations will always be in need of revitalizing the original spirit in order to make the Charter’s principles and purposes its own, within the context of a changing world. There is also the need for diplomats here and for the countries they represent to commit themselves ever anew to the daunting task of seeking the common good in good faith through genuine consensus and compromise.
The United Nations Organization, where the peoples of the world unite in dialogue and common action, is needed as much today as ever to respond to the undiminished hopes of the peoples of the world.
Thank you for your kind attention.
 Cf. Pope Paul VI, Address to the United Nations, 4 October 1965; Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings, 9 January 2020.
 Pope John Paul II, Address to the Fiftieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 5 October 1995.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Sagrato of St Peter’s Basilica, 27 March 2020.
FIRST GENERAL DEBATE — Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the start of the General Debate of the Seventy-Fifth Session of the United Nations. Normally the General Assembly Hall is packed for the statements of the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the first statements by Member States. This year attendance is restricted to just one member per delegation and all statements by Member States are being delivered via pre-recorded video message, introduced by the Permanent Representative or the Permanent Observer in the General Assembly Hall.
UNGA in the Midst of COVID-19
NEW YORK — The 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly has been unlike any other in memory.
There is no gridlock on New York streets because of the absence of Heads of State and Heads of Government with Secret Service protection and motorcades. Security for delegates to enter into the United Nations is much less stringent, making what could ordinarily take 20 minutes into just a few.
Whereas, however, Ambassadors and Delegates are used to being in a packed General Assembly Hall as certain world leaders address the international community with their priorities, pandemic restrictions on the part of the United Nations has made it a much different experience.
World leaders are speaking via pre-recorded video messages. That means that Heads of State and Government who would not ordinarily travel to New York City to deliver messages in person are able to do so from their capitals. It also means, in general, that the addresses are shorter in length and crisper in delivery. Simultaneous interpretation is likewise more efficient since the videos, and their accompanying official texts, were received a few days before, allowing the translators to do their jobs more easily.
Instead of six delegates per Mission being allowed in the General Assembly Hall at any given time with special "secondary passes," UNGA 75 permits just one, giving the cavernous aula a completely different feel for the General Debate. All ambassadors and delegates are masked except while speaking. At the end of a Session, they must all leave by single file.
Many of the Ambassadors and Delegates have been commenting, however, that, despite the changes and inconveniences, it is good to be meeting in person for the General Debate, and they say it is a hopeful sign for the in-person work that will take place over the upcoming months during the Committees of the General Assembly.
SEVEN CHURCH PILGRIMAGE — On Sept. 19, the Saturday before the Summit celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the beginning of the General Debate, six interns at the Holy See went on a pilgrimage to various of New York's most beautiful Churches. The Seven Church Pilgrimage was led by Fr. Roger Landry of the Holy See staff. They visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Thomas (Episcopalian), St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Jean Baptiste, St. Ignatius, St. Paul the Apostle, and St. Francis Xavier.