Officials at the Holy See and the United Nations are in talks about Pope Francis making a historic speech to the United Nations in New York, possibly later this year, Newsmax has learned.
The proposed visit, to coincide with two important anniversaries — the 50th anniversary since the Holy See was awarded permanent observer status at the U.N. and the centenary since the outbreak of World War I — could take place at the opening of the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly in September.
The visit would follow U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to the Pope to visit the U.N., which he made when he visited Francis last April.
Officials believe the presence of so many world leaders in the fall would present an opportune moment for the pontiff to underline his concerns to a captive audience on the world stage, just as his most recent predecessors did. John Paul II addressed the U.N. in 1979 and 1995, and Benedict XVI in 2008.
Poverty, the plight of refugees, the victims of world conflicts, and persecuted Christians are just some of the major issues the Pope would likely address. And in view of an increase in the number of attacks on Christians and restrictions on freedom of religion, sources believe Francis could use the occasion to propose a “Universal Declaration on Religious Freedom” at the intergovernmental body.
Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See are strongly urging Pope Francis to make the historic visit, and Newsmax has learned they will make an implicit proposal on Monday when they have their annual meeting with the Pope at the Vatican.
Since his election, Pope Francis has endeared himself to the international community, drawing media attention to issues that are of shared concern to many nations. These include his appeals for peace, tackling poverty, assisting refugees, and a consensus on the need for dialogue rather than engage in conflict and the build-up of arms.
The diplomatic community has also welcomed the Pope’s recent appointments, many of which have been Holy See diplomats. “We’ve seen a restoration of Rome,” observed one senior diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The Pope and his actions so far have been very much welcomed by us.”
Diplomats will make that support known at Monday’s meeting, in a speech by the dean of the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel of Monaco.
If a papal visit to the U.N. doesn’t happen this year, it’s equally likely in 2015. That would mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s speech to the General Assembly in 1965, the first by a pontiff. That visit also took place at the same time that Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is usually on show in St. Peter’s basilica, was loaned to the New York World’s Fair.
But it’s felt that this year would be more favorable and appropriate. “He ought to go over while he’s still popular,” said one official. “There is also an urgent need to address the issue of religious freedom and the protection of minority Christians.”
Two reports issued this week, one by Fides, a Vatican news agency, and another by Open Doors, a Christian solidarity group, showed that the number of Christians killed because of their faith doubled in 2013. Many of the murders took place in Syria. The Pope is especially concerned about the conflict there, and in the Middle East in general.
A speech at the U.N. would also be timely given the state of the peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Furthermore, it would give the Pope a platform to speak out against anti-life and anti-family policies, many of which are championed by various U.N. agencies such as the United Nations Population Fund UNICEF, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization.
A visit to the U.N. in New York would naturally comprise a trip to the United States, and another 2014 anniversary would also make such a visit appropriate: 30 years since the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Washington and the Holy See.
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