Addressing the U.N. General Assembly Friday, Pope Francis praised the organization but insisted that a spiritual dimension was key to solving the world’s problems.
The dense and wide-ranging address focused on economics, the environment and war, the topics that have most alienated him from Americans. Nonetheless, his arguments were consistently framed in Christian rhetoric, including the assertion that a proper vision of the world includes “the natural difference between man and woman” and “absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions.”
The alternative, according to the pope, is a disastrous “culture of waste” — waste of human life, waste of material and spiritual wealth, and waste of natural resources. And the system that leads to this waste, he said, often has the most disastrous consequences for the world’s poorest. (RELATED: 5 Uncomfortable Truths Pope Francis Pushed On Congress)
At the center of Francis’ speech was a view of the individual human that is deeply rooted in Catholic philosophy, a notion that is variously called “personalism” and “subsidiarity.” As he put it, “every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.”
In this sense, for the pope, “any harm done to the environment… is harm done to humanity.”
And he seemed to recognize the most common universal criticism of the United Nations — that it is nothing more than a hive of ineffective bureaucracy, full of “goals, objectives and statistical indicators.” Renewing his focus on the individual person, he said that “above and beyond our plans and programs, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.” (RELATED: At Lunch With Homeless (Not Congress), Pope Francis Highlights Jesus’ Poverty)
Instead, he asserted that while all of humanity deserves “lodging, labor and land” acquired through justice, they also require “spiritual freedom.”
Besides his signature issues, he also took a moment to mention the plight of the Middle East’s Christians, suffering from persecution by terrorist groups including Islamic State. He called the crisis as “a grave summons to an examination of conscience” by those in the room. (RELATED: Pope Francis’ New Accessory Is The Cross Of A Beheaded Iraqi Priest)
In the same spirit, he endorsed the recent multilateral nuclear deal made with Iran, and insisted that in every conflict around the world — including Ukraine, Libya, Syria and Sudan — “real human beings take precedence over partisan interests.”
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