Pope warns against undermining U.N.
By Philip Pullella 49 minutes ago
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Countries that act
unilaterally on the world stage undermine the
authority of the United Nations and weaken the broad
consensus needed to confront global problems, Pope
Benedict said on Friday.
In a major speech to the U.N. General Assembly, the
pope also said the international community sometimes
had the duty to intervene when a country could not
protect its own people from "grave and sustained
violations of human rights."
The pope, who arrived from Washington on the second
leg of a six-day U.S. trip, was only the third pontiff
in history to address the General Assembly.
Speaking in French and English from the Assembly's
green marble podium, he gave a wide-ranging address on
issues such as globalization, human rights and the
The international community must be "capable of
responding to the demands of the human family through
binding international rules," said the 81-year-old
pope, who spoke after meeting privately with U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
He said the notion of multilateral consensus was "in
crisis because it is still subordinated to the
decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call
for interventions in the form of collective action by
the international community."
While Benedict did not mention any country, this
appeared to refer to the United States, which led the
2003 invasion of Iraq despite a Security Council
refusal to approve it.
The Vatican strongly opposed the recourse to war.
Benedict, who met U.S. President George W. Bush during
his Washington visit, called for "a deeper search for
ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by
exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving
attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign
of dialogue or desire for reconciliation."
In an apparent reference to the conflict in the
Sudanese region of Darfur, the pope said every state
had the "primary duty" to protect its citizens from
human rights violations and humanitarian crises but
outside intervention was sometimes justified.
"If states are unable to guarantee such protection,
the international community must intervene with the
juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter
and in other international instruments," he said.
The pope called human rights, particularly religious
freedom, "the common language and ethical substratum
of international relations," and added that promoting
human rights was the best strategy to eliminate
"Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose
human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy
prey to the call to violence, and they can then become
violators of peace," he said in an apparent reference
to social causes of terrorism.
Benedict called for religious freedom to be protected
against secularist views and against majority
religions that sideline other faiths -- an apparent
reference to Muslim states where some Christian
minorities report discrimination.
"It should never be necessary to deny God in order to
enjoy one's rights," he said.
Diplomats from some 200 states gave him a standing
ovation when he ended his speech by reading the phrase
"peace and prosperity" in the six official languages
of the United Nations -- English, French, Spanish,
Arabic, Chinese and Russian.
Later, in the U.N. meditation room, he met U.N.
staffers and wrote in the visitors' Golden Book a
quote from the Prophet Isaiah: "Erit opus iustitiae
pax" -- Latin for "Justice will bring about peace."
Later on Friday, the German-born pope was due to visit
a New York synagogue just before the start of the
Jewish Passover holiday. He will also visit a
Manhattan parish founded by German immigrants in 1873.
The pope arrived in Washington on Tuesday on his first
visit to the United States as pontiff.
On Thursday, he held a surprise meeting with victims
of sexual abuse by priests in a bid to heal scars from
a scandal that deeply tarnished the Catholic Church in
the United States.
Some three dozen protesters outside the U.N.
headquarters held banners including one reading "Child
sexual abuse is worse than terrorism."
One group wore T-shirts with the legend "Save 50
million children from sexual abuse by Catholic
(Additional reporting by Christine Kearney; editing by
Tom Heneghan and Frances Kerry)
(For more on religion, see the Reuters religion blog
FaithWorld at http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld