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"To Build a Future of Justice, Freedom and Peace"

NEW YORK, SEPT. 14, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the text of the address delivered Monday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, to the prayer service held on the occasion of the opening of the 61st Session of the U.N. General Assembly.

The address included a message sent in Benedict XVI's name by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state. The service was held at the Church of the Holy Family, New York.

* * *

Mr. Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan,
Madam President of the General Assembly,
Bishop Gerald Walsh,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this annual prayer service on the occasion of the opening of the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I would like to acknowledge and express my sincere thanks to His Eminence Cardinal Egan, who is recovering from recent knee surgery, for sending us his representative, Bishop Walsh. To Father Robert Robbins, pastor of this parish, thank you for your abiding and warm hospitality and for opening the doors of this lovely church for this prayer service.

I am delighted to acknowledge the gracious presence of His Excellency the secretary-general and Mrs. Kofi Annan, and Her Excellency Ms. Haya Rashed, president of the 61st Session of the General Assembly.

Mr. Secretary-General, you have been consistently assiduous during your long and fruitful tenure, in participating in this annual prayer service. It is good and symbolic to be united with you in prayer, to publicly acknowledge the privilege God has entrusted to us to work on behalf of the greater good of the family of nations.

Ambassador Al Khalifa, as you assume your new functions, we pray with you and for you that the Almighty sustain you in your resolve to serve the membership of the United Nations.

I am particularly pleased to acknowledge the presence among us this evening of representatives of member states as well as those of Christian and non-Christian religious communities.

We salute all the efforts made to build the capacity, working mechanisms, institutions of the U.N., and above all its willingness to stand with the peoples of the world and put its resources at their service. For these tools and instruments to be truly effective, however, they require something more: They need human minds and hearts, together with a firm political will, to make them productive. This is why we gather this evening in prayer. Prayer is addressed to God. In it we question him and, by implication, prayer also questions ourselves.

I am pleased to see among those present the faces of many friends and acquaintances, U.S. citizens and visitors with no immediate connection to the U.N., some of whom I met recently and who said to me: We want to come and pray too, because we believe in the United Nations, we believe it is an instrument for peace, and we want God to change our hearts so that all of us will work passionately for the betterment of humanity.

As we gather together in prayer this evening, we cannot help but remember also the sad events of 9/11 five years ago. May the commemorations held throughout the country today be an impetus to ask God to change hearts.

At this time I want to share with you the message which His Holiness Benedict XVI has sent us for this occasion through Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state. It reads as follows:

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI sends cordial greetings to all gathered for the annual prayer service on the eve of the Sixty-first Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Acknowledging the progress made in the past year towards a more effective presence and activity of the United Nations organization in the areas of global peacekeeping and the protection of basic human rights, His Holiness expresses his hope that the review of the organization's structures undertaken on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of its founding will result in an increased practical commitment to meeting the needs and aspirations of the peoples of the developing world.

In the scheduled dialogue on international migration and development, and the midterm review of the program of action for the least developed countries, His Holiness sees a significant opportunity for realistic and responsible steps to deal with two of the most serious political and ethical questions facing the international community at the present time. Trusting that Almighty God will bestow upon all those associated with the work of the coming session the wisdom, perseverance and moral vision needed to confront these pressing issues, the Holy Father prays that they will be sustained in their efforts to build a future of justice, freedom and peace for the whole human family.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State

[Original text in English; adapted]

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Prayer, UN, Migliore, Justice, Freedom, Peace, Sodano

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