Great Moments in Catholic History
Fr. Jacques Monet, S.J. 
19 Paul VI at the United Nations

The Vicar of Christ brings His message of peace to all mankind

"This meeting, as you all understand, marks a simple and at the same time a great moment. It is simple because you have before you a humble man. your brother ... with no temporal power, nor any ambition ... with nothing to ask for, no question to raise, but only a desire to express and a permission to request, namely that of serving you insofar as we can, with disinterest, with humility, and love.''

The person speaking (in French) is Pope Paul VI. The city is the capital of the world: New York. The hall is the General Assembly at the headquarters of the United Nations. The audience is one hundred Foreign Ministers of sovereign states, one hundred and sixteen representatives of so many nations, and over three thousand distinguished guests from every corner of the globe. The date is Monday, October 4, 1965.

"We said,'' Pope Paul continues, "this moment is also a great one. Like a messenger who, after a long journey, finally succeeds in delivering the letter which has been entrusted to him, so we appreciate the good fortune of this moment, however brief, which fulfills a desire nourished in the heart for nearly twenty centuries. For as you will remember, we are very ancient; we here represent a long history: we here celebrate the epilogue of a wearying pilgrimage in search for a conversation with the entire world, ever since the command was given to us: "Go and bring the good news to all peoples." Now you here represent all peoples. Allow us to tell you that we have a message, a happy message to deliver to each one of you and to all."

He is speaking, he says, "with the voice of the dead and of the living, with the voice of the poor, the disinherited, the suffering, of those who hunger and thirst for justice, for the dignity of life, for freedom, for well-being, for progress.''

Since the very beginning of his pontificate, two years earlier, Paul VI has been pledged to outreach -- he will be the first pope in history to bring the Christian message to all five continents. He has visited the Holy Land and India; he will, before the end of his pontificate, come into personal contact with different peoples Portugal and Turkey, in Latin America, the Caribbean, Persia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Australia, Uganda, Ceylon, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Since his early years in the 1920's as a shy and retiring young priest serving as chaplain to university students in Rome, and later, since his first appointment in 1923 in the Vatican's diplomatic service, he has been a peacemaker. In his first Message urbi et orbi on June 22, 1963, he pledged himself to travel and work for the preservation of peace among peoples, a promise reiterated in his memorable allocution of September 29, 1963, opening the second session of the Second Vatican Council.

Twenty centuries earlier the command had been given. At the Council of Jerusalem it had been accepted and then across the centuries, through persecution and mission, it had been grasped anew, undertaken, and handed down in sacrament, liturgy and spirituality, in learning, politics, controversy and the ants. Now at last, for the first time, the Vicar of Christ can actually bring his message to all mankind -- physically to the representatives of all nations gathered before him and simultaneously to all parts of the world through the airwaves of radio and television. And his message is Christ's, and very much his own, "Peace! The ideal of which mankind dreams on its pilgrimage through time."

"If you wish to be brothers," he continues, "let the arms fall from your hands ... the hour has struck for a halt to war, for a moment of recollection, of reflection, almost of prayer ... For the danger comes, not from progress, nor from science. No, the real danger comes from within the spirit of mankind itself ... Peace, as you know, is not built up only by means of politics, by the balance of forces and of interests. It is constructed with the mind, with ideas, with the works of peace ... It is, we presume to say, the reflection of the loving and transcendent design of God for the progress of the human family on earth. So no more war! War never again. Jamais la guerre! Jamais plus la guerre."

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