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Day: September 25, 2015

Pope Francis to the Faithful of New York: Tell Everyone Christ still walks in our City

Perhaps it was a sign from heaven: A rainbow appeared in the sky above New York City on Friday as Pope Francis rode through Central Park, giving tens of thousands of people the chance to see him before he celebrated Mass in Madison Square Garden.  Organisers made 80,000 tickets available for the last-minute event, which was added to the Papal schedule when it was realised not enough New Yorkers were getting a chance to see the Holy Father. Security was tight, and spectators had to go through metal detectors before being allowed into the park to see Pope Francis.  Pope Francis, visible sitting in the Popemobile, smiled and waved to the screaming crowd.
After his ride in the park, he switched to his now famous black Fiat 500L, and was driven to Madison Square Garden for Mass. The mass was attended by thousands of people who included the lay faithful, bishops, priests, religious and the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan. In his Homily, delivered in Spanish, the Pope made an urgent reminder for the Catholics of New York City. He invited them to proclaim the joy of God because they have seen the “great light” of Jesus Christ and to remember to care for all those who go unnoticed in their city. 
Chris Altieri filed the following report.   

Below is the English translation of the Homily
We are in Madison Square Garden, a place synonymous with this city.  This is the site of important athletic, artistic and musical events attracting people not only from this city, but from the whole world.  In this place, which represents both the variety and the common interests of so many different people, we have listened to the words: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).
The people who walked – caught up in their activities and routines, amid their successes and failures, their worries and expectations – have seen a great light.  The people who walked – with all their joys and hopes, their disappointments and regrets – have seen a great light.
In every age, the People of God are called to contemplate this light.  A light for the nations, as the elderly Simeon joyfully expressed it.  A light meant to shine on every corner of this city, on our fellow citizens, on every part of our lives.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”.  One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see, to contemplate, even in “moments of darkness”, the light which Christ brings.  God’s faithful people can see, discern and contemplate his living presence in the midst of life, in the midst of the city.  Together with the prophet Isaiah, we can say: The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air.
         Living in a big city is not always easy.  A multicultural context presents many complex challenges.  Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences.  In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine.  Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be. 
But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens.  In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city.  They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly.  These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.  They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.
Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope.  A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city.  A hope which frees us from empty “connections”, from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines.  A hope which is unafraid of involvement, which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work.  A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city.
         What is it like, this light travelling through our streets?  How do we encounter God, who lives with us amid the smog of our cities?  How do we encounter Jesus, alive and at work in the daily life of our multicultural cities?
         The prophet Isaiah can guide us in this process of “learning to see”.  He presents Jesus to us as “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”.  In this way, he introduces us to the life of the Son, so that his life can be our life.
Wonderful Counselor.  The Gospels tell us how many people came up to Jesus to ask: “Master, what must we do?”  The first thing that Jesus does in response is to propose, to encourage, to motivate.  He keeps telling his disciples to go, to go out.  He urges them to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be.  Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation.  Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people.
The Mighty God.  In Jesus, God himself became Emmanuel, God-with-us, the God who walks alongside us, who gets involved in our lives, in our homes, in the midst of our “pots and pans”, as Saint Teresa of Jesus liked to say.
The Everlasting Father.  No one or anything can separate us from his Love.  Go out and proclaim, go out and show that God is in your midst as a merciful Father who himself goes out, morning and evening, to see if his son has returned home and, as soon as he sees him coming, runs out to embrace him.  An embrace which wants to take up, purify and elevate the dignity of his children.  A Father who, in his embrace, is “glad tidings to the poor, healing to the afflicted, liberty to captives, comfort to those who mourn” (Is 61:1-2).
Prince of Peace.  Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side.  He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school of encounter.  He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace.  That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.
God is living in our cities.  The Church is living in our cities, and she wants to be like yeast in the dough.  She wants to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, as she proclaims the marvels of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”.  And we ourselves are witnesses of that light.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis Encourages students at an elementary Catholic School in Harlem to use the Opportunities provided by Education to realise their Dreams

“You have a right to dream…..  Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present.” This was the message by Pope Francis to children when on Friday he visited Our Lady, Queen of Angels School, in the district of Harlem in  New York.  The largely catholic school is attended by children from poor families, of mainly migrants and African Americans. It has about 300 students ranging from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade. It was once part of the church of Our Lady Queen of Angels, which was closed in 2007 as part of a large number of church closures by the Archdiocese of New York due to lack of funds and diminishing vocations to the priesthood. Pope Francis encouraged the children to use the opportunities provided by education to realise the dream of a future with greater possibilities.
Here below is the full speech in English.
Dear Children,
         I am very happy to be with you today, along with this big family which surrounds you.  I see your teachers, your parents and your family members.  Thank you for letting me come, and I ask pardon from your teachers for “stealing” a few minutes of their class time!
         They tell me that one of the nice things about this school is that some of its students come from other places, even from other countries.  That is nice!  Even though I know that it is not easy to have to move and find a new home, new neighbors and new friends.  It is not easy.  At the beginning it can be hard, right?  Often you have to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, even a new climate.  There is so much to learn!  And not just at school.
         The good thing is that we also make new friends, we meet people who open doors for us, who are kind to us.  They offer us friendship and understanding, and they try to help us not to feel like strangers.  To feel at home.  How nice it is to feel that school is a second home.  This is not only important for you, but also for your families.  School then ends up being one big family.  One where, together with our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our teachers and friends, we learn to help one another, to share our good qualities, to give the best of ourselves, to work as a team and to pursue our dreams.
         Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people.  I want to talk a little bit about him.  He was the Reverend Martin Luther King.  One day he said, “I have a dream”.  His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities.  His dream was that many children like you could get an education.  It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them.
         Today we want to keep dreaming.  We celebrate all the opportunities which enable you, and us adults, not to lose the hope of a better world with greater possibilities.  I know that one of the dreams of your parents and teachers is that you can grow up and be happy.  It is always good to see children smiling.  Here I see you smiling.  Keep smiling and help bring joy to everyone you meet.
         Dear children, you have a right to dream and I am very happy that here in this school, in your friends and your teachers, you can find the support you need.  Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present.  Because Jesus is joy, and he wants to help us to feel that joy every day of our lives.
         Before going, I want to give you some homework.  Can I?  It is just a little request, but a very important one.  Please don’t forget to pray for me, so that I can share with many people the joy of Jesus. And let us also pray so that many other people can share the joy like yours.
         May God bless you today and Our Lady protect you.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis to the UN : concerted action in service

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on Friday morning at UN headquarters in New York. Though it was the 5th time a reigning Pontiff addressed the body, it was the first time in history that a Pope has done so during the annual “heads of state and government” session that opens the work of the Assembly each year in the Fall. So, it was another historical first.
Christopher Altieri reports from New York: 

Pope Francis’ speech to the UN was, like the other of his addresses, which he has already delivered during the course of this visit, remarkable for its content, tone, and structure: neither shying away from frank recognition of serious problems both within the UN body and in the present order of international affairs, nor striking a scolding or heavily didactic tone, the Holy Father’s address was once again in essence a word of encouragement.
Delivered in Spanish, the Holy Father’s public address followed a private meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. The Pope’s remarks dealt briefly and efficiently with the protocol of greetings, salutations, anniversary mentions and establishments of historical context. Even when he was going about that necessary work, however, he was already preparing his audience for the real radical labor of thought, in which he engaged and to which he called his audience – which included dozens of heads-of-state and/or government .
The characteristic of Pope Francis’ thinking on display in his UN discourse was its rootedness in the quintessentially Catholic intellectual tension of et-et (both-and), which eschews the straits of dichotomy and explodes the shackles of binary categorization. At perhaps no point was this characteristically Catholic tension in thinking on display, than in Pope Francis’ daring assertion of the natural environment as the subject of proper rights in the created order – rights which demand to be respected in positive law. “First,” said Pope Francis, “a true ‘right of the environment’ does exist,” and he went on to articulate the twofold reason that compels us to recognize the truth of the claim. “We human beings are part of the environment,” he explained. “We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect.”
“Man,” Pope Francis continued, “for all his remarkable gifts, which ‘are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology’ (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres.” Both physical and spiritual: the Greeks knew this and had two words for life – bios and zoé – both of which flow into and out of human nature as constitutive elements.  “Second,” he continued to explain, “every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures: we Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it.”
A conviction grounded in reason that is also an article of faith: this is the basic pattern at work – and though it is quintessentially Catholic, there is nothing in this way of thinking that requires an assent of supernatural faith in order to appreciate it, to recognize its merits as a way of thinking, or even to be compelled by the strength of the arguments it allows the one who adopts it to deploy in controversy.
First, last, and always a Pastor, Pope Francis was not telling the members of his audience what to think: he was showing them how, and he was inviting them to think with him – and so with a view to concerted action in service and pursuit of the genuine good. He had their attention because the authority of his office commanded it: he used the opportunity to demonstrate the Church’s expertise in humanity, and of what one can do – what we could do together – if only we were willing to avail ourselves of it.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis’ address at Ground Zero Memorial in New York

(Vatican Radio)  In an address to an Interreligious Meeting at the Ground Zero Memorial in New York, Pope Francis said on Friday (24th September) “we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions.” Speaking at the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks, he told those present that “together, we are called to say “no” to every attempt to impose uniformity and “yes” to a diversity accepted and reconciled.” The Pope described Ground Zero as a place where “we shed tears” and mourn those who were the victims of a “mindset that knows only violence, hatred and revenge.”
Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s address at the Interreligious Meeting held at the Ground Zero Memorial in New York:     
Dear Friends,
                I feel many different emotions standing here at Ground Zero, where thousands of lives were taken in a senseless act of destruction.  Here grief is palpable.  The water we see flowing towards that empty pit reminds us of all those lives which fell prey to those who think that destruction, tearing down, is the only way to settle conflicts.  It is the silent cry of those who were victims of a mindset which knows only violence, hatred and revenge.  A mindset which can only cause pain, suffering, destruction and tears. 
                The flowing water is also a symbol of our tears.  Tears at so much devastation and ruin, past and present.  This is a place where we shed tears, we weep out of a sense of helplessness in the face of injustice, murder, and the failure to settle conflicts through dialogue.  Here we mourn the wrongful and senseless loss of innocent lives because of the inability to find solutions which respect the common good.  This flowing water reminds us of yesterday’s tears, but also of all the tears still being shed today.
                A few moments ago I met some of the families of the fallen first responders.  Meeting them made me see once again how acts of destruction are never impersonal, abstract or merely material.  They always have a face, a concrete story, names.  In those family members, we see the face of pain, a pain which still touches us and cries out to heaven.
                At the same time, those family members showed me the other face of this attack, the other face of their grief: the power of love and remembrance.  A remembrance that does not leave us empty and withdrawn.  The name of so many loved ones are written around the towers’ footprints.  We can see them, we can touch them, and we can never forget them.
                Here, amid pain and grief, we also have a palpable sense of the heroic goodness which people are capable of, those hidden reserves of strength from which we can draw.  In the depths of pain and suffering, you also witnessed the heights of generosity and service.  Hands reached out, lives were given.  In a metropolis which might seem impersonal, faceless, lonely, you demonstrated the powerful solidarity born of mutual support, love and self-sacrifice.  No one thought about race, nationality, neighborhoods, religion or politics.  It was all about solidarity, meeting immediate needs, brotherhood.  It was about being brothers and sisters.  New York City firemen walked into the crumbling towers, with no concern for their own wellbeing.  Many succumbed; their sacrifice enabled great numbers to be saved. 
                This place of death became a place of life too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division.
                It is a source of great hope that in this place of sorrow and remembrance I can join with leaders representing the many religious traditions which enrich the life of this great city.  I trust that our presence together will be a powerful sign of our shared desire to be a force for reconciliation, peace and justice in this community and throughout the world.  For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace.  In opposing every attempt to create a rigid uniformity, we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and lift our voices against everything which would stand in the way of such unity.  Together we are called to say “no” to every attempt to impose uniformity and “yes” to a diversity accepted and reconciled.
                This can only happen if we uproot from our hearts all feelings of hatred, vengeance and resentment.  We know that that is only possible as a gift from heaven.  Here, in this place of remembrance, I would ask everyone together, each in his or her own way, to spend a moment in silence and prayer.  Let us implore from on high the gift of commitment to the cause of peace.  Peace in our homes, our families, our schools and our communities.  Peace in all those places where war never seems to end.  Peace for those faces which have known nothing but pain.  Peace throughout this world which God has given us as the home of all and a home for all.  Simply PEACE.
                In this way, the lives of our dear ones will not be lives which will one day be forgotten.  Instead, they will be present whenever we strive to be prophets not of tearing down but of building up, prophets of reconciliation, prophets of peace.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis addresses the UN General Assembly

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has addressed the United Nations General Assembly in a highly anticipated speech, in which he talked about the protection of the environment and, as he put it, ”  today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”. The Holy Father also referred to the effects of economic and social exclusion with, ” its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.”
During the speech, delivered in Spanish, the Pope underlined the devastating consequences of war, especially in countries such as Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, and the Great Lakes region.  In wars and conflicts, he said, ” there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die.  Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.”  In the wide ranging speech, the Holy Father also spoke about the persecution of religious minorities, including Christians.
Below find the English translation of  Pope Francis’ address  to the United Nations Organization, UN  Headquarters, New York.
Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your kind words.  Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations.  In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude.  I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting.  Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall.  I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.
This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations.  I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008.  All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power.  An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities.  I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.
The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary.  The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes.  Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour.  All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness.  Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities.  Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.
For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years.  In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.
            Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes.  The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises.  This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned.  The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.
The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity.  In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself.  To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings.  The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power.  Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded.  These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships.  That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.
First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons.  First, because we human beings are part of the environment.  We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect.  Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres.  He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable.  Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.  Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.  We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it.  In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).
The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion.  In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action.  Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment.  The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.  They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.
The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions.  The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope.  I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.
Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions.  The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi.  Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.  Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, 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.
The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification.  But this involves two risks.  We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges.  It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.
To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.  Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed.  They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc.  This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children.  Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.
At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development.  In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.
For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education.  These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.
The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.  The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself.  Man does not create himself.  He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6).  Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.).  Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).
Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.
War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment.  If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.
To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm.  The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement.  When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained.  When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.
The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations.  Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons.  An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”.  There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.
The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy.  I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.
In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community.  For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.
These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs.  Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be.  In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die.  Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.
As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.
Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people.  Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade.  A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought.  Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption.  A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.
I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors.  I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely.   “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny.  The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965).  Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion.  As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).
The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.  This common house of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.
Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good.  To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).
El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.
The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).
The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223).  We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future.  The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.
The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations.  And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good.  I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual
Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity.  Thank you.
(from Vatican Radio)…