Behind the Scenes: Pope Benedict XVI Addresses the UN General Assembly

Morgan Obrien serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the United States maintained its impressive pace as the Holy Father flew from Washington to New York this morning, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

As the third pontiff to address the General Assembly, the Holy Father spoke in French and English to a packed auditorium filled with representatives from the UN's 192 member states and discussed our increasingly interconnected world, the importance of protecting the environment, and framed his remarks around the universal necessity to protect human rights.

Along with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the permanent representative of the United States to the UN, and Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, our ambassador to the Holy See, I was fortunate enough to sit with the United States delegation on the floor of the General Assembly for the address. As a native New Yorker, an American and a Catholic, I couldn't have been more proud of my own heritage today and was thrilled by the experience.

Situated in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, there may be no more appropriate place for a body called the United Nations than New York City. This city is an incredible melting pot of hundreds of cultures, languages, traditions and faiths that come together each day to provide the energy for what Benedict's predecessor John Paul II called, "the capital of the world."

Only a few generations removed from immigrants who passed through New York Harbor on their way towards pursuing the American Dream, I could only imagine what my great grandparents would think if they knew that a century later, I'd be on hand for a papal address. As European Catholics, I imagine they'd take great pride in the fact that the Holy Father would visit New York, their new home, although I'm sure they wouldn't know about the United Nations because the organization didn't yet exist.

The word catholic means "universal," and in addition to serving as the spiritual leader of an institution of 1 billion members, the Holy Father's remarks focused on the universal values we share. Specifically, the Holy Father spoke of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2008, and the importance of respecting one another. This message transcends any one specific faith and reached the wide-ranging audience on hand for today's address.

Today, the Holy Father provided a powerful message to a global audience on a grand state. Sitting in the audience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will always remember with pride in my faith, my state and my nation.



New Mexico, USA
April 20, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Here's the video link:

I have rarely heard a more articulate call for greater responsibility among nations to honor the precepts of the United Nations' founding. Not just in the premise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also in nation's collective "Responsibility to Protect."

* If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with juridical means provided by the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments,ã he said.

* The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage,ã he added, calling for a deeper search of ways to preempt conflicts.

Here's the full text of the Pope's remarks:

New York, USA
April 20, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

At the UN the Pope called attention to our overarching need to achieve the common goal of human rights; and underscored the importance of bringing more nations into decision-making positions to achieve this goal. The UN cannot survive if decision-making power is concentrated in the votes or vetoes of a few members. There is no threat to justify this structure. This structure has become the ultimate threat.

April 23, 2008

Jon writes:

Wow! Thanks Eric for the links they are top reads.

Tennessee, USA
April 23, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

I am afraid the overall picture is much greater than what was painted and simple solutions need be given consideration here.

People, to have any rights, still need: FOOD, housing, the skills to be self sufficient -- that above any political dynamic.

We have an opportunity to provide more here in the US by paying our farmer or providing subsidies to GROW crops for this purpose. Not pay them to NOT GROW. Why kind of subsidy is that?

Hungry people become violent people and easily coerced by propaganda from extremist views that channel their frustrations and provide for short term solutionsãlike simply having food for their family for a day.
Both CIA and the DoS are very concerned by this presently, but our Congress and Senate can and must find better solutions that can profit everyone and not hurt the poor in our country to feed the poor in another. What is American about that?

Food may well be the bullets of today that will lead to democracy, otherwise its chaosãand we have only a taste of it now. Who thought we would be ever paying for water here in the US?

How can you tell anyone about human rights who is starving?

Ronald, is right and to add even another dimension:
What happens when China, who has 38% of the Security counsel seats, is openly selling weapons to Nigeria? One reason for the Petrol cost now has jumped is because the same terrorist they sold the weapons to blew up two major gas lines in Nigeria this week. The problems are overwhelming; but, the UN and it's MEMBERS were created to solve them, not contribute to them.

New York, USA
April 24, 2008

Angela in New York writes:

Thank you for sharing your experience. Even though I was not fortunate enough to be a witness to Pope Benedict in person, I was able to see him on T.V. and was very impressed by his presence. It is my hope that our nation will respond to his message. God bless us all.

New Mexico, USA
April 24, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

You're welcome Jon, here's the latest on Darfur:

Joe, you should probably take a look at this. I think it will provide some food for thought.

If the final tally of pro's and con's are summed up in decision making by the intent to save lives; as to whether the international community can afford to allow genocide to continue to be a continued threat to global peace and security by those complicant in such criminal acts....Then let us hope we have the common sense and purpose to ensure the quickest, most effective response ever executed via force of arms and diplomacy, rather than be complicant through inaction.

By "we" I mean everybody. Russia, China, NATO, France, AU, the first time in 60+ years we've stood on the same side against terror and tyrany and genocidal ethical infants.

Things come full circle sometimes, naturally, and of necessity.

So I'm posting the following because I object to a mindset that believes that the UN is a place where good ideas go to die.

----- Original Message -----
From: USUN, PublicAffairs
To: EJ ( edited for posting)
Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 1:45 PM
Subject: RE: UN rapid reaction force-a concept for peace

Thank you for your suggestions, which we will pass on.
-----Original Message-----
From: Eric Jette []
Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:00 AM
To: USUN, PublicAffairs
Subject: Re: UN rapid reaction force-a concept for peace
Importance: High

Dear Ambassador Bolton,

Folks talk about an effective UN, and I'm sitting here, after a long night up, with a couple toothpicks proped in my eyelids, and a cop o'joe in fromt of me hoping to hen-peck out an idea that works on the keyboard in front of me (and not spill the coffee on it in the process)...

Sir, I know diplomacy is messy, takes time., and that's no one's fault, or everyone's depending on the circumstance. But once resolution is made, it has to be implemented pronto, without delay.

What if the US gave the UN one of our mothballed military bases to store equip. and house a rapid reaction force (say of division strength or better -Airborn equipped) so it's all in one spot and can be deployed on hours notice via US heavy airlift capability? Would this help in a situation we have getting peacekeeping forces into a Lebanon type situation in the future?

If it's got merit, I hope you'll talk to your boss about it, and Koffe too...god speed in matters of diplomacy,



Hopefully this "Dipnote" will wake a few folks up quicker than a stiff cup of coffee.

United States
April 24, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Since this is about the Pope's words, perhaps the simplest solutions can be found in the credo of the Knights of Columbus: In Service to One. In Service to All.

This cannot be done when there are too many personal, political and corporate interest world wide. Even within any religious element the same problem exists.

The problem isn't in any single faction, the problem is in the diversity of it all and whoms interest is going to be served. The actual solution to the problems are not complex, generally they are politically or economically oriented first. Therefore the premise is forgotten. The dynamics of it all is in reviewing the priorities and eliminating what is not directly related to the solution. Who profits does not feed anyone. Who is going to look good does not feed anyone and taking from the poor in one place to feed the poor in another is a direct violation of the premise: Feeding the poor. So how can any solution be correct to begin with? There is no Pendulum Eric in someone dying of hunger, a mother who cannot pay her rent or feed a child in a democratic environment, much less a third world country.

Solomons proposed wisdom was not premised on complex solutions; but, his ability to find simple and common solutions. There are simple solutions to what seem greater, complex problems that are simply not being carried out. Diplomacy is only one tool which is more of an excuse factor for political purposes today which leads back to individual party vanity or economic gain, not results.

Feeding more people while keeping prices down: Pay subsidies for production of USAID foodstuffs. Pay them to small independent farmers so they may keep alive their craft and utilize the land. Even Free markets must have parameters or there will be chaos, which we now have. ie: you can't have freedom if there are limits to your freedom, why would you think that economics would be any different? It is not socialistic to pay people for thier work and have the most productive outcome for all. It does not volate a free economic system. If you think farming is easy, try it. These people must love what they do and it is important. Freedom isn't made by corporate control over our foodstuff, so the element of a free system is not violated. DO SOMETHING..anyone can talk and we do have intelligent and caring people in Congress who can do something that will help EVERYONE!

When you can solve the Greed factor in all things, perhaps then we will have a better world Eric, until then pray or get realistic.

Words cannot fill an empty stomach. Hope is the currency of the poor -- and even that is being lost here in America.

Ryan L.
United States
April 25, 2008

Ryan in U.S. writes:

Unfortunately the Pope can talk all day long about all the problems happening around the world, but the World Trade Organization won't do anything about it... until it's too late. The Politicians talk about all the problems, and never fix them... the comedians joke about how screwed up things are until the system collapses. I don't think corporations causing diseases and teaming up with the pharmecutical companies is funny. I don't think the MKULTRA experiments are funny. I don't think the government doing psychological experiments on it's people is funny. I don't think Lawyers are funny, and they are in charge of the Law. You can talk until your throat hurts, but you guys won't do anything about it, because you profit from it. Wall Street invests on how many criminals they have in jail... it's all about money. The fundamental problem with the system is LIARS, and your system has been doing it for THOUSANDS of years. There is nothing Divine about your actions, and I apologize for being so harsh... This World Wide Web frontal lobe BRAIN ZAPPING has me a little upset.

New Mexico, USA
April 29, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Joe in Tennessee -- I have some rather extensive experience in what being poor is all about, and what it takes to pull one's self up by the bootstraps. So I look at what the Pope said, and to me it seems the whole premise for him speaking at all is that to remind ourselves of our duty to each other, as individuals and nations.

Joe wrote:

"When you can solve the Greed factor in all things, perhaps then we will have a better world Eric, until then pray or get realistic."

Profit's not a bad thing, but profitering and conflict is.

Perhaps you think it impossible for a different mindset to which nations act out of altruistic economic interest from the realization that far more profit may be achieved in a state of peace and security, for when an impoverished nation's GDP grows, so does foreign investment, as a factor in nation building.

Nearly a decade of R&A into foreign affairs, and a lifetime of study of the human condition gives me a fair shot at pearing around corners, having noted some trends.

I had written,

"By 'we' I mean everybody. Russia, China, NATO, France, AU, the first time in 60+ years we've stood on the same side against terror and tyrany and genocidal ethical infants."

Well, they said NATO would never operate out of area, folks never figured on four strait unanimous UN resolutions on Iran over nuclear issues, and I bet you never figured on this:

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Right. And what they -- and we talk about our view, we explain it. I think their -- they have been rather reluctant to be interventionists, and they want to maintain the economic relationships they have. On the other hand, I think we've brought them around to the view, or we've reached a common view that security needs to be reestablished in the Sudan, because the security is the sine qua non. It's the one condition you've got to achieve before you're able to accomplish anything else, and there, not only have they gone along with us in advocacy and approval of an expanded peace keeping effort there, but they have sent, which is unusual for China, a peace keeping -- an engineer unit there, themselves, some 300 people that are involved in helping build encampments and facilities --

Interview With Charlie Rose
John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 25, 2008

If folks had followed through on the idea I sent two years ago, we wouldn't be hearing about a lack of helicopters to get the job done in Darfur. I'm too busy being realistic to pray, Joe. That may be why I'm an optimist. I'll just keep hammering away till I make a few dents in the status quo, thanks.

Posted by Morgan Obrien
April 19, 2008


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