Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Pope set to share message with UN

POPULAR POPE:Pope Francis is to be the fifth pope to visit the UN, and for the first time the Vatican flag was raised before the General Assembly just before his arrival


Pope Francis reaches out to school student Omodele Ojo of Brooklyn borough, New York, as he is greeted by children upon his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

From the world stage of the UN to an inner-city school, Pope Francis is emphasizing themes that have shaped his popular papacy as he packs in encounters with the powerful and the poor in New York City.

His agenda yesterday reflected both his global stature and his of-the-people approach, while taking him from the solemnity of ground zero to the struggles of East Harlem. It included events as large as a processional drive through Central Park, as personal as meeting schoolchildren and immigrants and as inspiring for the faithful as Mass for thousands in the Madison Square Garden arena.

Francis, who on Thursday became the first pope to address a joint session of the US Congress, is now set to speak to world leaders gathered for a UN General Assembly summit to adopt new global goals to fight poverty and preserve the environment.

The Vatican has said Francis is expected to discuss the need for peace, the plight of refugees and the role of poverty and bad government in driving conflict and migration, but inequality, poverty, the environment and religious persecution might also be among the issues he highlights for the international audience.

Francis has exhorted wealthy countries to “open doors” to migrants seeking better lives, a message that resounded in Thursday’s speech to the US Congress. He also touched on the conflicts that have sparked the greatest refugee crisis since World War II and, in some places, have spurred killings of Christians and other religious minorities by militants. The pontiff has expressed deep concern about those killings, but he cautioned in his speech to Congress that the world must be thoughtful about how it responds to extremism.

Francis was scheduled to speak with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday and meet with UN officials and staffers.

While his visit marks the fifth time a pope has been to the UN, the Vatican’s gold-and-white flag was raised for the first time just before his arrival. The General Assembly recently agreed to allow the UN’s two observer states, the Holy See and Palestine, to fly their flags alongside those of the 193 member states.

The pope is to visit the 9/11 Memorial, where two waterfall pools mark the outlines of the World Trade Center’s twin towers before they were felled by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is expected to meet relatives of some of the nearly 3,000 victims before going below ground to the National Sept. 11 Museum for an interfaith service.

Francis’ plans reflect the penchant of the “people’s pope” for engaging with the public, on scales large and small.

First is a visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, set amid public housing in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood of East Harlem. Known for ministering to the downtrodden in his native Buenos Aires, Francis is to meet schoolchildren and offer a special blessing to refugees and immigrants, including people living in the country illegally.

Then he is to greet as many as 80,000 onlookers as he drives through Central Park, en route to Mass for 18,000 at Madison Square Garden.

On Thursday evening, thousands cheered as Francis waved from his popemobile along Fifth Avenue en route to St Patrick’s Cathedral for evening prayers.

His reflections included his strongest expression yet of gratitude and respect for US nuns, whom he thanked for their strength, spirit and courage.

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