Pope Francis inspired the children of Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, California and the young, peace-loving Tarumi Violinists

His Holiness Pope Francis receiving flowers from two children of UN Staff members. Standing behind Pope Francis is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard.
His Holiness Pope Francis receiving flowers from two children of UN Staff members. Standing behind Pope Francis is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard.

It was as though “Baltic Review” had really hit the jackpot on September 25 – the morning when His Holiness Pope Francis arrived at UN Head-quarters to address the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. Yes, we were one of the lucky members of the media with offices at UN Headquarters in New York who actually won a lottery ticket to see Pope Francis speak in the UN General Assembly Hall

Besides being an inspiration for children of all ages Pope Francis spoke about his “concern for the environment and love for our fellow human beings.“ Even getting into the UN Building early that morning Pope Francis was scheduled to speak was quite a challenge, considering that 5,000 extra when members of the press were anxious to meet Pope Francis at the United Nations, too. However, this was a historic time in United Nations history, the 70th anniversary of its founding, and the first time that a Pope and leader of the Catholic Church had spoken during the General Debate in the UN General Assembly Hall.

Before Pope Francis arrived at the UN, a “Mural of HOPE for Pope Francis” designed and created by Master Muralist and Peace Paint Ambassador Cecelia Linayo and students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, California was on display in the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) Clubroom.

 

Shown here is Master Muralist and Peace Paint Ambassador. Cecelia Linayo, with the “Mural of Hope for Pope Francis”, a UNA USA San Diego, Art Miles Mural Project. Photo/Fouad Tawfilis.
Shown here is Master Muralist and Peace Paint Ambassador. Cecelia Linayo, with the “Mural of Hope for Pope Francis”, a UNA USA San Diego, Art Miles Mural Project. Photo/Fouad Tawfilis.

 

The visit of His Holiness, Pope Francis to New York City, home of the United Nations, for the very first time, was met with great enthusiasm.

According to Joanne and Fouad Tawfilis, founders of the Art Miles Mural Project, “over the past week, students worked with Cecelia to create a beautiful image of the Pope, with a lot of love and messages of peace for their namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.“

 

This photo from Art Miles Mural Project shows students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, California working on the mural they created for Pope Francis. Photo/Fouad Tawfilis.
This photo from Art Miles Mural Project shows students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, California working on the mural they created for Pope Francis. Photo/Fouad Tawfilis.

 

Master Muralist Cecelia Linayo helped the children create the stained glass image from the drawing and painting efforts of the students, who through their principal, Elizabeth Joseph, enjoyed and embraced this special opportunity to create this five by twelve foot mural, painted with acrylic paint on canvas.

Plans are now underway as to finding a permanent home for this mural which was on display on September25 when Pope Francis visited UN Headquarters.

 

During his short stay in New York City, Pope Francis could often be seen waving from a black car near Central Park and other locations in Manhattan. On one occasion, His Holiness was said to have spotted from his car the “Mural of HOPE for St. Francis” displayed on a New York City sidewalk done by Master Muralist Cecelia Linayo and the students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, California. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.
During his short stay in New York City, Pope Francis could often be seen waving from a black car near Central Park and other locations in Manhattan. On one occasion, His Holiness was said to have spotted from his car the “Mural of HOPE for St. Francis” displayed on a New York City sidewalk done by Master Muralist Cecelia Linayo and the students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, California. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

 

The day before Pope Francis was scheduled to speak in the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) hosted a breakfast briefing and dialogue with Save the Children which included 15 young leaders from around the world and the Danish President of the 70th UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, on the world they want to see in 2030.

Speakers included Mogens Lykketoft, General Assembly President, Carol Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children, and youth representatives from many different countries, including China, Afghanistan, Norway, the United States, Denmark, and others.   Following the briefing, several children from the Save the Children press briefing gathered in the back of the room to view the mural of Pope Francis which was on view in the UNCA Clubroom on September 25, the day that Pope Francis would arrive at UN Headquarters.  Some of the children were photographed with the mural of Pope Francis, an Art Miles Mural Project.

Children of UN Staff members who were at UN Headquarters on September 25, really seemed to enjoy meeting Pope Francis in person. Guillermo Vaisman from Argentina, Music Director and Conductor of the United Nations Staff Recreational Singers, led the UN Singers in a special performance for Pope Francis.  His Holiness was born in Argentina of Italian Immigrant parents, and Pope Francis seemed especially pleased with this colorful musical performance in honor of his visit to UN Headquarters.

 

Pope Francis, flanked by Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark (left) President of the 70th session of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, listened to a performance by the UN Staff Recreation Council Singers led by Argentinian Guillermo Vaisman, music director and conductor. UN photo/Amanda Voisard.
Pope Francis, flanked by Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark (left) President of the 70th session of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, listened to a performance by the UN Staff Recreation Council Singers led by Argentinian Guillermo Vaisman, music director and conductor. UN photo/Amanda Voisard.

 

A few days earlier, on the International Day of Peace (September 21), Guillermo and the UN Singers had performed together with the talented, young Tarumi violinists, under the direction of Yukako Tarumi. Both  Guillermo and Yukako  often perform together at the UN Peace Bell  Ceremony on Earth Day on the Equinox (March 20-21), initiated by John McConnell with the cooperation of UN Secretary General U Thant on  March 21, 1971, as well as the International Day of Peace (September 21).

 

Peace Bell Ceremony to commemorate the International Day of Peace (21 September)
Peace Bell Ceremony to commemorate the International Day of Peace (21 September)

 

Studying the violin with Yukako Tarumi, children learn not only how to play the violin, but through acts of kindness, compassion, and understanding, discover how to get along with others in a culturally diverse world.  According to the United Nations, “Everything that is needed to build a Culture of Peace already exists in each one of us. As stated in the United Nations definition, “a Culture of Peace is a set of values, attitudes, modes of behavior and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among Individuals, groups, and nations.”

As the Director of the Tarumi Violin Foundation for the Arts, Yukako explains that “our young musicians are spreading a message of love and world peace through the universal language of music.”

She mentioned, in particular, that the Tarumi Violinists had performed for His Holiness John Paul II at the Vatican, and her students consider themselves “global “citizens” of the world. In addition, these young violin players are giving back to humanity at a young age by performing in nursing homes, hospitals, and schools for disabled children.

 

The Tarumi Violinists, under the direction of Yukako Tarumi, have been performing at the United Nations for nearly 20 years. Pictured is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, third from left, speaking to one of the members of the group on the International Day of Peace which took place on September 21, 2007. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.
The Tarumi Violinists, under the direction of Yukako Tarumi, have been performing at the United Nations for nearly 20 years. Pictured is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, third from left, speaking to one of the members of the group on the International Day of Peace which took place on September 21, 2007. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

 

During the Pope’s visit to Our Lady Queen of Angel School in Harlem on September 25, Pope Francs expressed happiness in being able to be with students at the school, and together with this big family which surrounds them.  “I see your teachers, your parents and your family members“ he remarked.

His Holiness mentioned that “some students came from other places, and many from other countries.”  School principal, Joanne Walsh, seemed really pleased with the afternoon visit of Pope Frances to this Catholic school. Many students came from Spanish-speaking immigrant families.  And of course, Pope Francis enjoyed speaking in his own native language, which happened to be Spanish, too.

According to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, Pope Francis also said that “often you have to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, even a new climate. There is so much to learn. The good thing is that we also make new friends. He also spoke about the right to dream, to be happy, and bring joy.”

His Holiness mentioned, in particular, that he wanted to talk about Reverend Martin Luther King.

Based on remarks made by Pope Francis at the school, “One day Reverend Martin

Luther King said ‘I have a dream.’  The Pope explained, “His dream was that many children, like you, could get an education.” His Holiness stated that “he dreamt that many men and women like yourselves could lift their heads high, in dignity and self-sufficiency.

It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for your dreams.  Don’t ever forget this,“ said Pope Francis. (See more statements made by Pope Francis during his visit to the school, by checking the website of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York.)

 

Pictured is His Holiness Pope Francis addressing the UN General Assembly during his visit to United Nations Headquarters. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.
Pictured is His Holiness Pope Francis addressing the UN General Assembly during his visit to United Nations Headquarters. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

 

On the occasion of the visit by Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the following remarks: “We are honored to host you during this historic visit. For those of us who cherish the United Nations, this chamber is sacred space.  In no other hall –from no other platform – can a world leader speak to all humanity. And for decades, that is precisely what world leaders have done. Kings and Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Popes.

The Secretary-General went on to say, “But never in our 70-year old history has the United Nations been honored to welcome a Pope for the opening of the General Assembly. And never in Papal history has the Head of the Catholic Church addressed such an array of world leaders. Your Holiness, thank you for making history. Thank you for demonstrating yet again your remarkable global stature as a man of faith for all faiths.”

Ban Ki-moon also stated,” your motto is “Miserando atque eligendo”, or lowly, but chosen.  And you strive every day to include the excluded. You are at home not in palaces, but among the poor – not with the famous. Like the United Nations, you are driven by a passion to help others. Your views move millions. Your teachings bring action. Your example inspires us all.”

 

Shown is Pope Francis waving to UN Staff Members who welcomed His Holiness during his visit to UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.
Shown is Pope Francis waving to UN Staff Members who welcomed His Holiness during his visit to UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

 

The visit of Pope Francis coincided with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “But that is no coincidence”, said the UN Secretary-General.  He pointed out that Pope Francis has often spoke of an “integral ecology” one that encompasses the environment, economic growth, social justice and human well-being.

In other words, “sustainable development for our common home. “ The UN Secretary- General, stated that “the recent Papal Encyclical-Laudato Si – defined   climate change as a principal challenge facing humanity and a moral issue.”

During his speech in the UN General Assembly Hall, His Holiness Pope Francis made it clear that when it comes to protecting the environment, it must be stated that a true ‘right of  the environment’ does exist for two reasons:

“ First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect.”

 

Although September 25, 2015 marked the first time Pope Francis had visited UN Headquarters in New York, it wasn’t the first time that the UN Secretary-General had met Pope Francis. On the contrary, this photo shows Ban Ki-moon meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on April 28, 2015. UN Photo/Mark Garten.
Although September 25, 2015 marked the first time Pope Francis had visited UN Headquarters in New York, it wasn’t the first time that the UN Secretary-General had met Pope Francis. On the contrary, this photo shows Ban Ki-moon meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on April 28, 2015. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

 

Based on information made available through  the Holy See Press Office, here’s how Pope Francis described man’s relationship to the environment :  “Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology”  (Laudato Si’, 8 I),  is at the same time, a part of these spheres .

“He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable.

Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.”

 

Shown is Pope Francis together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Yoo-Soon-taek, surrounded by the flags of the United Nations and the Holy See. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.
Shown is Pope Francis together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Yoo-Soon-taek, surrounded by the flags of the United Nations and the Holy See. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

 

However, Pope Francis added that “the misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion.  In effect, a selfish  and boundless  thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive  political action. “

As Pope Francis explained, “economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded, and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and growing ‘culture of waste.’ “

In a statement made by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York on October 8, he said: “Pope Francis reminded us in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 25, to empower men and women to escape extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny,”

He added that, “in our efforts to promote economic and environmental development, we must never forget that everything is connected “.As Pope Francis affirms, “concern for the environment needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment  to resolving the problems of society.”

He also said that, “the inherent link between sustainable development and care for our common home challenges those models of development that while inarguably generating  wealth and economic progress, also cause greater socio-economic inequalities,  and the destruction of our environment. “

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of "Baltic Review" based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body's work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.