Annual High-Level Meeting of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends on Shaping A Better World: Building Cohesive And Inclusive Societies In A Challenging Covid-19 Environment at the United Nations, New York, September 29, 2019.
Mr. High Representative,
Last Friday, as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Pope Francis concluded his remarks by recalling that “the pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still pitted against each other.”The present crisis affecting the human family is an opportunity to truly work together to build cohesive and inclusive societies. “We never emerge from a crisis just as we were,” recalled the Pope. “We come out either better or worse.” This reality provides all of us an invitation, he concluded, “to rethink the future of our common home and our common project.”
For several weeks, Pope Francis has been dedicating his weekly general audience to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is not only offering a reflection but also proposing an articulated response grounded in the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, based on principles such as solidarity and subsidiarity, which stem from a desire to serve the common good. Pope Francis has also manifested his proximity through many spiritual and practical initiatives, such as moments of prayer, the daily streaming of Mass from his residence, the establishment of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission with five working groups, and the donation of ventilators, scanners, and other medical equipment to hospitals around the world. Pope Francis’ focus throughout has been on the poorest and the most vulnerable, as well as on our common home, urging us to rediscover “what it means to be members of the human family.”While there are many things that differentiate, such differences should never be a pretext for exclusivism or for dividing the human family, particularly at such a difficult time. The pandemic has brought us back to basics: “a time to choose what matters, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”
Recently, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) along with the World Council of Churches (WCC) produced a document entitled Serving a wounded world in interreligious Solidarity – A Christian Call to Reflection and Action during COVID-19 and beyond. The preamble states clearly that, while the document is of joint-Christian authorship, the love and service of our neighbor is to be done “in solidarity also with those who profess and practice religions that are different from our own or consider themselves unaffiliated to any particular religion.”The document goes on to note that the world is wounded not only by the pandemic but also by “the scourge of religious intolerance, discrimination, racism, economic and ecological injustice, and many other sins”.
Today offers an occasion to recommit to buck this trend of religious intolerance through a spirit of authentic dialogue and through a willingness to listen to and learn from one another. Even if interreligious dialogue is an internal matter for religious communities, at a more informal level, it is a dialogue of life, of being together as religious communities, of working together to promote the common good, peaceful coexistence, and understanding in societies and for all humanity.This form of existential dialogue is a model and catalyst for all dialogues between persons and peoples at every level.
To live as Nations truly united, as brothers and sisters committed to the integral human development of all, we must go beyond declarations, however articulate. We must come together and “transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together the future we desire.”And religious believers, during this pandemic and beyond, must help chart the path.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Pope Francis, Address to the Seventy-fifth Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25 September 2020. Ibid. Pope Francis, General Audience, 12 August 2020. Pope Francis, Meditation during the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer in the Time of Pandemic, 27 March 2020. PICD/WCC “Serving a Wounded World in Interreligious Solidarity– A Christian Call to Reflection and Action during COVID-19 and beyond.” See Statement by Monsignor Janusz S. Urbańczyk, Permanent Representative of the Holy See, at the First Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting, OSCE (“Upholding the Principles of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination, including in the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief”), Vienna, 1-2 April 2019. Pope Francis, Address to the Seventy-fifth Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25 September 2020.
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