Statement of Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Organization of American States
“The Encounter of Two Worlds”
Washington, D.C., 13 October 2016
Madam President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the very outset, I would to like to add to those sympathies already expressed by the Holy Father Pope Francis the deepest condolences of my delegation to the Representatives present here today from those areas of the Caribbean and of the United States that have suffered the tragic loss of so many lives and properties following the recent Hurricane Matthew. The Holy Father’s and my own personal sympathies are especially for the people of Haiti, who suffered the most.
Today the Holy See joins again the family of the Organization of American States on this special day for America, when we reflect on the ‘Encounter of Two Worlds” and the 1492 arrival, in this Hemisphere, of Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer sailing under the patronage and authority of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.
In a contemporary world increasingly ravaged by violence and human suffering, the word ‘encounter’ should have a special meaning for us all. The word “encounter” is a golden thread tying all the words and actions of Pope Francis together, a unifying inspiration for what he says and does. “Encounter” evokes dialogue, bridges, solidarity, fraternity, and charity. Pope Francis talks of a diplomacy of encounter toward deeper mutual knowledge and mutual respect, of dialogue to resolve conflicts, of dialogue to promote unity and fight exclusion, of “caminar juntos” as a concrete way of life. This is a diplomacy that brings with it greater respect for weaker countries, negotiations over arms, and cordial relations among nations.
Pope Francis uses the term “culture of encounter” also in the sphere of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, which are very important elements in the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for integral human development. In this regard, we welcome the initiative of the Secretary General in early September in Rome in taking an important step toward creating a platform for a strengthened inter-religious dialogue in America.
The legacy of the first “Encounter” between the Old and New Worlds has been, overall, the mutual enrichment of both worlds, in spite of some persistent ambivalence and debate. As we strive to avoid the errors of the past and work for greater peace and security in the Hemisphere, we should be inspired by the lives of those heroic individuals, from both the Old World and the New World, who opposed, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘the logic of the sword with the power of the Cross,” placing fraternal service and encounter above subjugation and domination.
Today, the Hemisphere continues to face migration crises, drug violence, border disputes, and areas of extreme poverty, especially within indigenous communities, which threaten the basic dignity of every individual affected. Nevertheless, the Holy See continues to believe that this Organization can make a difference for the benefit of the entire Hemisphere, in particular through strengthening the institutional capacities of Member States where institutions are still fragile and through fostering dialogue between countries with unresolved disputes. Indeed, this Organization has the duty and calling to make the Hemisphere a better place to live for all its citizens, where the fruits of the “Encounter of Two Worlds” continue to nourish and enrich all its inhabitants.