The Pope at the U.N.—Herald of Hope?
IN RESPONSE to Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim’s invitation, Pope John Paul II visited the United Nations this past October 2. Altogether he spent seven days in the United States, making stops in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Des Moines, Chicago and Washington, D.C. As his motorcade passed, both Catholics and non-Catholics jockeyed for position and strained for a glimpse of the vigorous, 59-year-old pontiff.
Even at the U.N., where visits by celebrities are common, the pope’s appearance created special interest. His address to the General Assembly was the main feature of his American visit. Of that talk, a New York Post editorial said: “He was pleading for a new beginning, a fresh vision and a revival of hope.”
Did his message provide basis for renewed hope? To what source did he direct attention for the solution of mankind’s problems?
CHAMPION OF THE U.N.
It was to the United Nations. The pope said: “I hope that the United Nations will ever remain the supreme forum of peace and justice, the authentic seat of freedom of peoples and individuals in their longing for a better future.”
Yet not once in his 62-minute address did the pope mention Jesus Christ or the Kingdom. Since he has assumed the title “Vicar of Christ,” is this not surprising? The omission is especially strange in view of the fact that the Bible identifies the kingdom by Christ Jesus, not the United Nations, as God’s means for bringing peace to the earth. Do you feel that a desire to avoid offending the non-Christians and atheists in the U.N. justified this omission?
IDENTIFYING HUMAN NEEDS
The pope, however, did point out real needs of the human family that are not now being met. He spoke, for example, of “the frightful disparities between excessively rich individuals . . . [and] the majority made up of the poor or, indeed, of the destitute, who lack food and opportunities for work and education, and are in great numbers condemned to hunger and disease.”
This situation needs correcting, the pope emphasized. “It is no secret,” he said, “that the abyss separating the minority of the excessively rich from the multitude of the destitute is a very grave symptom in the life of any society.” Yet has the pope’s own Church shown by example how a just distribution, or equalizing, of resources can be achieved?
Also, Pope John Paul II pointed to the need of safeguarding “religious freedom and freedom of conscience.” Surely all lovers of justice can agree with the pope when he said: “It is a question of the highest importance that . . . all human beings in every nation and country should be able to enjoy effectively their full rights under any political regime or system.” But has the Church itself set an example in championing religious freedom for all?
Highlighting another pressing human need, John Paul II repeated the words of Pope Paul VI, delivered at the U.N. General Assembly 14 years ago: “No more war. War never again.” Certainly there is a need to end war and the preparations for war! Again, what kind of example has the Catholic Church set in this regard?
Just a few days before the pope addressed the U.N., while on his visit to Ireland, he told Catholics: “On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace. . . . Further violence in Ireland will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to cherish.”
Can John Paul’s visits to Ireland and the United States be expected to help solve the serious problems facing mankind? Has the Church he represents set an example in meeting the human needs that the pope identified? Judging by the way millions turned out to see and listen to him, evidently many viewed him as a herald of hope. But is he? Let the facts answer.