Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly on the occasion of the visit by His Holiness Pope Francis, in New York today:
Bienvenidos a las Naciones Unidas! Es un honor para nosotros ser sus anfitriones durante esta histórica visita. [We are honoured to host you during this historic visit.]
For those of us who cherish the United Nations, this chamber is sacred space. In no other Hall — from no other platform — can a world leader speak to all humanity. And for decades, that is precisely what world leaders have done — Kings and Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Popes.
But, never in our 70-year history has the United Nations been honoured to welcome a Pope for the opening of the General Assembly. And never in Papal history has the Head of the Catholic Church addressed such an array of world leaders.
Your Holiness, thank you for making history. Thank you for demonstrating yet again your remarkable global stature as a man of faith for all faiths. Your motto is Miserando atque eligendo, or “lowly, but chosen”. And you strive every day to include the excluded. You are at home not in palaces, but among the poor — not with the famous, but with the forgotten — not in official portraits, but in “selfies” with young people.
Like the United Nations, you are driven by a passion to help others. Your views move millions; your teachings bring action; your example inspires us all. Your visit today coincides with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But, that is no coincidence.
You have often spoken of an “integral ecology” — one that encompasses the environment, economic growth, social justice and human well-being; in other words, sustainable development for our common home.
The recent Papal Encyclical — Laudato Si — defined climate change as a principal challenge facing humanity, and a moral issue. This message is critical as we approach the pivotal climate change conference in Paris in December.
Across the global agenda, His Holiness is a resounding voice of conscience. He has cried out for compassion for the world’s refugees and migrants, and solidarity with people trapped in conflict and poverty. He is committed to lifting up struggling families — and shutting down modern-day slavery. He believes in building roads of opportunity for young people — and bridges between communities.
In May 2014, Pope Francis met with the full leadership of the United Nations system at the Vatican. He affirmed that we must mobilize the world beyond religious or political differences to forge a shared vision — a life of dignity for all. On the first page of his recent encyclical, Pope Francis said: “I wish to address every person living on this planet”.
Your Holiness, welcome to the pulpit of the world. We are here to listen. Thank you.