The leading executive officers of the United Nations’ agencies, funds and programs were received Friday morning at the Vatican Apostolic Palace by Pope Francis.
The members, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, are in Rome for their biannual meeting for strategic coordination of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board.
After an address by Ban, the Holy Father welcomed those present, highlighting the significance of their meeting after the canonizations of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II.
“The new saints inspire us by their passionate concern for integral human development and for understanding between peoples,” the Pope said. “This concern was concretely expressed by the numerous visits of John Paul II to the Organizations headquartered in Rome and by his travels to New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi and The Hague.”
While acknowledging the efforts of the UN in implementing the Millenium Development Goals in education and decreasing poverty, the Holy Father said that the “world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.”
“An essential principle of management is the refusal to be satisfied with current results and to press forward, in the conviction that those gains are only consolidated by working to achieve even more,” he said. “In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, 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.”
The Holy Father went on to say that any future goals in sustainable development must have a “real impact” on fighting the causes of poverty and hunger. The Pope said all forms of injustice must be challenged, which include “resisting the ‘economy of exclusion’, the ‘throwaway culture’ and the ‘culture of death’ which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”
The Gaze of Christ
Reflecting on the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, Pope Francis told the UN members that Zacchaeus’ “radical decision of sharing and justice” was due to the awakening of his conscience by “the gaze of Jesus.”
“This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity,” he said.
“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 with immediate results, like the decision of Zacchaeus.”
The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, he continued, serves as a reminder that there must always be a need to promote a generous openness to the needs of others. Jesus, he explained, does not ask Zaccheaus to change his occupation nor condemn his activities, but rather, inspires him to place himself at the service of others.
Pope Francis encouraged the UN members to likewise do their work with a “generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level.”
Concluding his address, he called on those present to look beyond all differences to serve those most in need.
“I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded,” he said. (J.A.E.)