Friday, April 18, 2008

The world's pastor addresses the UN

The Holy Father's UN Speech was superb. I saw the replay on EWTN in the evening, and this time, EWTN's commentary (Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Neuhaus, and former US Ambassador to the Holy See, Ray Flynn) was generally quite helpful. "The Holy Father has reminded the UN of the principles of its moral foundations" is how (I recall) Fr. Neuhaus putting it.

All three however clucked at bit at Secretary General Moon's words, which they characterized as "something about God, many gods, no God." That was unfortunate. The Secretary General was quoting his distinguished predecessor, Dag Hammerskjöld. This is what the Secretary General said:
Before leaving the UN today, you will visit the Meditation Room. My great predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, who created that room, put it well. He said of the stone that forms its centerpiece [and I quote]: "We may see it as an altar, empty not because there is no God, not because it is an altar to an unknown God, but because it is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms." End quote.


Whether we worship one God, many or none -- we in the United Nations have to sustain and strengthen our faith every day. As demands on our Organization multiply, we need more and more of this precious commodity.
Yes, not exactly entirely compatible with Catholic doctrine, but he's not the Pope, or a Catholic. He's presenting a legitimate view of secularity, however. I don't think the speech deserved that kind of response.

As to the Holy Father's speech: what a vision of Christian humanism! And yes, he might be Augustinian, but I sensed the Angelic Doctor shining through. There's so much packed in there. I'm sure we'll see good unpacking in the next days and weeks. But what I was struck by was just how clear it was that the Pope is far more than just the head of the Catholic Church. He is really the world's pastor. That is clearly the sense one got seeing how he was received, and how people responded to his presence. He is calling the UN to its foundational principles, centered on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here is my money quote:
It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God's creative design for the world and for history.

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