In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York today, Pope Francis spoke at length on a range of subjects from equity and the environmental protection to the promotion of the rule of law and eradicating global poverty.

In this, the fifth time that a Pope has visited the UN, Pope Francis also highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, set to be adopted by UN Member States later this morning, and the upcoming climate conference in Paris, and warned that the realities in the Middle East and Africa were grave.

“I must renew my repeated appeals regarding the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries,” said Pope Francis, “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.”

The Pope also addressed the effects of exclusion and inequality, noting that the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, was an important step forward, adding that he was confident that the December Conference of States Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), widely referred to as COP 21, would secure fundamental and effective agreements.

During his introductory remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said never in its 70-year history has the United Nations been honoured to welcome a Pope for the opening of the General Assembly.

“Your visit today coincides with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Mr. Ban told Pope Francis.

“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.”

He noted that 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,” the UN chief continued. “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.”

Mr. Ban recalled that in May 2014, Pope Francis met with the full leadership of the United Nations system at the Vatican, at which time he affirmed that the global community must mobilize the world beyond religious or political differences to forge a shared vision – a life of dignity for all.

For his part, General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft also welcomed Pope Francis to the world body.

“When you recalled previously how inseparable the ‘bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and peace’, you spoke directly to the three pillars of the United Nations – and to the interdependency and interconnectedness between these three pillars,” Mr. Lykketoft told the Pope.

“That is the message at the heart of the new and very ambitious 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development,” he continued.

Mr. Lykketoft also referred to the upcoming climate change conference in Paris, where, he said, the UN must adopt an ambitious climate agreement to protect people and the planet.

He also noted that a similar urgency was required “to bring an end to the conflicts and violent extremism affecting many parts of our world today,” adding that “our collective response to these crises, and to the plight of millions of displaced people and refugees has been, at beast, inadequate, and, at worst, a failure of our humanity.”

Those gathered at the General Assembly must respond “with leadership and action, in the spirit of solidarity, dialogue and tolerance,” he said.

via UN News Centre