Pope urges UN leadership to resist 'culture of death'

Pope Francis at his general audience on Sept. 25, 2013. Credit: Elise Harris/CNA.

Pope Francis met with the secretary general and other leaders of the United Nations today, urging them to challenge both a “culture of death” and the “economy of exclusion.”

In a meeting on May 9 with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other executives at the U.N., Pope Francis said that the institution should work towards goals which include providing “appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development.”

“Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the ‘economy of exclusion,’ the ‘throw-away culture’ and the ‘culture of death’ which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted,” he continued.

Ban Ki-Moon is in Rome for a yearly meeting of all the heads of the U.N. agencies. Although the Secretary General met the pontiff last year, today’s meeting was unique in its inclusion of about 50 senior UN officials.

Pope Francis took the opportunity to speak regarding the Future Sustainable Development Goals at the world organization, noting that they must be “formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of of poverty and hunger.”

He urged the U.N. leadership to refuse “to be satisfied by current results,” keeping in mind that “the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.”

It is from an “awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death” that development and progress can aid peoples throughout the world.

Such an awareness “must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones,” urged the Pope.

He then considered the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus. When Christ looks at the man who was living a life of greed, Zaccheus’ conscience is “awakened.”

“The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions,” reflected the pontiff.

“Does the spirit of solidarity and sharing guide all our thoughts and actions?” he queried.

The gospel story “teach us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective, and practical openness to the needs of others.”

The Pope then encouraged the leadership of the U.N. to “work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization” guided by “fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded.”


Voices

In our time

Archbishop José H. Gomez

As I write, I’ve just read the sad news that 90 Christians have been kidnapped from two villages in Syria. Of course we were all shocked earlier this month by the news that 21 Coptic Christians were executed in Syria — killed, as Pope Francis said, “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 

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