09 April 2013

Opening remarks to press following visit to the Vatican

Ban Ki-moon

Good [afternoon], ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be back in Rome. I have a full programme today.

I have a number of meetings, including with President [Giorgio] Napolitano this morning and Prime Minister [Mario Monti] this afternoon. I am also meeting with speakers of both houses – the Senate and the Parliament of Deputies, and other Ministerial officials.

But I wanted to have this chance to speak with you about my meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis. I am just coming back from the Vatican.

I was greatly honoured to have an audience so early in his tenure. I told His Holiness that his choice of name – after Saint Francis of Assisi – was a powerful message for the many goals and principles shared by the United Nations.

It speaks loudly of his commitment to the poor, his deep sense of humility, his passion and compassion to improve the human condition. I was especially privileged to meet Pope Francis as we mark 1,000 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.

We discussed the need to advance social justice and accelerate work to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This is vital if we are to meet the millennium promise for the world’s poorest.

I also was very heartened by the commitment of Pope Francis to build bridges among communities of faith. I strongly believe that interfaith dialogue can point the way to a deeper appreciation for shared values which in turn can lead to tolerance, inclusion and peace.

This is the motivating force of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations initiative, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to speak with Pope Francis about how to further promote this essential work.

It was an uplifting, hopeful meeting. Pope Francis is a man of peace and purpose. He is a voice for the voiceless.

I look forward to continuing our conversation. In that spirit, and following in the tradition of his predecessors, I was honoured to invite Pope Francis to visit the United Nations at his earliest convenience.

And I thank you very much. Grazie. I will be happy to take a few questions.