Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke yesterday at the 69th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which included a debate on the Transformative Development Agenda, among other themes.
Cardinal Parolin, speaking in English, emphasized that the Holy See values the United Nations’ efforts to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development. However, quoting Pope Francis, he remarked that there is the danger of widespread indifference in our time, affecting not only the field of politics but also economic and social sectors, “since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens”. He added, “at times, such apathy is synonymous with irresponsibility. This is the case today, when a union of States, which was created with the fundamental goal of saving generations from the horror of war that brings untold sorrow to humanity, remains passive in the face of hostilities suffered by defenseless populations”. In this context, the Cardinal repeated Pope Francis’ appeal to the international community this August to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now under way” in the north of Iraq.
He went on to speak in further detail about the situation in Iraq and Syria, where “we are seeing a totally new phenomenon: the existence of a terrorist organization which threatens all states, vowing to dissolve them and replace them with a pseudo-religious world government”. Unfortunately, he continued, even today “there are those who would presume to wield power by coercing consciences … persecuting and murdering in the name of God. These actions bring injury to entire ethnic groups, populations and ancient cultures. It must be remembered that such violence is born of a disregard for God and falsifies religion itself, since religion aims at … making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator. In a world of global communications, this new phenomenon has found followers in numerous places, and has succeeded in attracting from around the world young people who are often disillusioned by a widespread indifference and a dearth of values in wealthier societies. This challenge, in all its tragic aspects, should compel the international community to promote a unified response, based on solid juridical criteria and a collective willingness to cooperate for the common good”.
“To this end, the Holy See considers it useful to focus attention on two major areas. The first is to address the cultural and political origins of contemporary challenges, acknowledging the need for innovative strategies to confront these international problems in which cultural factors play a fundamental role. The second area for consideration is a further study of the effectiveness of international law today, namely its successful implementation by those mechanisms used by the United Nations to prevent war, stop aggressors, protect populations and help victims”.
Cardinal Parolin continued, “The situation today requires a more incisive understanding of this law, giving particular attention to the ‘responsibility to protect’. In fact, one of the characteristics of the recent terrorist phenomenon is that it disregards the existence of the state and, in fact, the entire international order. … It also undermines and rejects all existing juridical systems, attempting to impose dominion over consciences and complete control over persons. The global nature of this phenomenon, which knows no borders, is precisely why the framework of international law offers the only viable way of dealing with this urgent challenge. This reality requires a renewed United Nations that undertakes to foster and preserve peace. … The present situation, therefore, though indeed quite serious, is an occasion for the member states of the United Nations Organization to honor the very spirit of the Charter of the United Nations by speaking out on the tragic conflicts which are tearing apart entire peoples and nations. It is disappointing that, up to now, the international community has been characterized by contradictory voices and even by silence with regard to the conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine. It is paramount that there be a unity of action for the common good, avoiding the cross-fire of vetoes. … In summary, the promotion of a culture of peace calls for renewed efforts in favor of dialogue, cultural appreciation and cooperation, while respecting the variety of sensibilities. … Ultimately, there must be a genuine willingness to apply thoroughly the current mechanisms of law, while at the same time remaining open to the implications of this crucial moment. This will ensure a multilateral approach that will better serve human dignity, and protect and advance integral human development throughout the world”.
With reference to the approval of the Transformative Development Agenda, Cardinal Parolin confirmed that the Holy See welcomes the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ proposed by the Working Group (Open Working Group for Sustainable Goals), which seek to address the structural causes of poverty by promoting dignified work for all. “Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the efforts of the United Nations and of many people of good will, the number of the poor and excluded is increasing not only in developing nations but also in developed ones. The ‘responsibility to protect’, as stated earlier, refers to extreme aggressions against human rights, cases of serious contempt for humanitarian law or grave natural catastrophes. In a similar way, there is a need to make legal provision for protecting people against other forms of aggression, which are less evident but just as serious and real. For example, a financial system governed only by speculation and the maximization of profits, or one in which individual persons are regarded as disposable items in a culture of waste, could be tantamount, in certain circumstances, to an offence against human dignity. It follows, therefore, that the United Nations and its member states have an urgent and grave responsibility for the poor and excluded, mindful always that social and economic justice is a essential condition for peace”, he concluded.