Pope Francis to United Nations Officials: Full Text

{Ed. Note: We present here the full text of the address by Pope Francis to executives from the United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes.}


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you, Mr Secretary-General and the leading executive officers of the Agencies, Funds and Programmes of the United Nations and specialized Organizations, as you gather in Rome for the biannual meeting for strategic coordination of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board.

It is significant that today’s meeting takes place shortly after the solemn canonization of my predecessors, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. The new saints inspire us by their passionate concern for integral human development and for understanding between peoples. 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.

I thank you, Mr Secretary-General, for your cordial words of introduction. I thank all of you, who are primarily responsible for the international system, for the great efforts being made to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development.

The results of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in terms of education and the decrease in extreme poverty, confirm the value of the work of coordination carried out by this Chief Executives Board. At the same time, it must be kept in mind 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. 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. Future Sustainable Development Goals must therefore be formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion”, the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death” which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.

With this in mind, I would like to remind you, as representatives of the chief agencies of global cooperation, of an incident which took place two thousand years ago and is recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10). It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity. 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. Does this spirit of solidarity and sharing guide all our thoughts and actions?

Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others.

The account of Jesus and Zacchaeus teaches us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others. Jesus does not ask Zacchaeus to change jobs nor does he condemn his financial activity; he simply inspires him to put everything, freely yet immediately and indisputably, at the service of others. Consequently, I do not hesitate to state, as did my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42-43; Centesimus Annus, 43; BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 6; 24-40), that equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level. A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.

Consequently, while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, 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.

Invoking divine guidance on the work of your Board, I also implore God’s special blessing for you, Mr Secretary-General, for the Presidents, Directors and Secretaries General present among us, and for all the personnel of the United Nations and the other international Agencies and Bodies, and their respective families.


Categories:Feature Pope Francis Vatican

  • rudy angeloni

    this pope loves god sooo much. what a coincidence. i never knew he would take the name of my best saint francis, whom i knelt down and viewed him in his crypt, and prayed to him they dont have him viewable anymore. im going to rome in june and i feel like im a teenager instead of 82. god bless ben. and god bless all of you who put this together. and if i had one million dollars id give half to E.W.T.N.

  • http://CatholicVote Clare

    The Pope is called the Vicar of Christ, not Christ himself. Only Jesus, as true God and true man, always spoke with absolute truth, clarity and accuracy. In the book This is our Faith, a Catholic Catechism for Adults by Michael Pennock , the author states that one of the conditions necessary to label a pope’s teaching as infallible is when “the subject is a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals”. Furthermore, Pennock explains, “the pope’s personal opinions and beliefs, like any person’s, can be wrong, for example, in politics, science or sports. In addition, because the pope is human, he can sin and make mistakes, even in the way he governs the church”.
    I believe Christ would want us to question any proclamation or opinion that removes moral responsibilities from an individual. No one should be above scrutiny including and perhaps especially the successors of Peter and the apostles. Perhaps if people had not been so afraid of questioning and investigating the church’s hierarchy, the children abused by clergy would have been saved.

    Finally, in Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical Pacem in Terris, he warns”…however extensive and far-reaching the influence of the Sate on the economy may be, it must never be exerted to the extent of depriving the individual citizen of his freedom of action. It must rather augment his freedom, while effectively guaranteeing the protection of everyone’s essential, personal rights”.

    Christ judges each one of us on our individual actions and efforts. Imagine that a company owner promises to pay three men for various jobs. When the work is complete, the owner pays the workers, but then takes the money back immediately, telling them he is contributing their pay checks to the poor. Would the men be considered exemplary Christians because they were forced to be charitable? Or should each one decide to be charitable based on his own moral conscience? God gave us the divine gift of free will to choose wisely as individual Christians, not to hand our choices to a collective government.

  • Peter O

    There is nothing Marxist about what he is stating. He is stating we should be generous and work to achieve solidarity. He’s not saying, as Marxism says, “Take from the rich and give to the poor”. Forced giving is not charity, nor is it Catholic in any remote sense of the term. Capitalism is not “crony capitalism”, and charity is not Marxist. Charity is the free giving of one’s own belongings- it is not the giving of other people’s property via dictatorial fiat. Nowhere does he tell the UN to give money to others, but to work to reduce extreme poverty, which the UN excels at creating. I merely find it ironic that he’s asking a governing body, which couldn’t generate economic wealth if their lives depended on it, to help generate wealth.

    Here’s how you generate wealth: Have totalitarian governments overthrown, allow entrepreneurs liberty, and stop the ludicrous taxation levels of business owners who create jobs and reduce poverty by the PROVEN mechanism of “trickle down” economic activity. Governing bodies should only intervene so much as is needed to prevent a corporation from denying the human rights of individuals. Learn from the good and bad of Capitalism, keep the good, throw out the bad (i.e. Liberal crony capitalists).

  • Jeff

    “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

    Two points. The first is that it is glaringly obvious that capitalism has created the greatest opportunity for the most people of any system of economics. In the United States we face an “obesity epidemic” in our poor population. Imagine that.

    With that said, the society created around that system, at least here in the US, isn’t often a shining epitome of Christian values or the teachings of Christ. I fear Marxism and I am not ready to give up the fruits of capitalism. With that said, I often feel as though I am trying to serve two masters when defending the free market as expressed in modern politics. There must be a middle ground between the left’s collectivism and the increasing pull of bankers and corporations who role is up over liberty but ultimately seem to be pushing crony capitalism.

    Second, while there is much to look at in our society, the Pope represents a global population. One where many individuals are subjects of governments and not citizens. Where the wealth of resources are supposed to be shared but are instead taken by a small minority of dictators and oligarchs. Where the poor population is fighting for morsels of food and their own human dignity. This isn’t America, it is much of the world surrounding it.

    Simply shouting “Marxist, socialist, communist” in a knee-jerk fashion won’t take us far. Think about the context of what is being said. Reflect on the teachings of Jesus and relate them to modern times. Then, after that, we can talk about the direction the Pope is going, how much of our political defenses are often defenses of greed and how we can conduct business and serve God.

    In all things, before casting stones, look at oneself.

    • Bill

      Don’t agree that the poor in our country are doing OK. On a related note, the obesity epidemic is not to be confused with having a lot of money. The standard American diet is one of the primary causes of the epidemic and lower-income families are the ones who suffer the most from it.

      I do like the way you ended your comments, and your discomfort with the idea that we only have two choices, socialism and capitalism. If you haven’t done so already, I hope you will investigate the CESJ’s Just Third Way. Norman Kurland, the CESJ president, was a colleague of Louis Kelso and has picked up on his ideas in recent decades. Though Kelso and Mortimer Adler used “Capitalist” in the title of both of their books, the CESJ policy is to make a clear distinction between capitalism, as we know it (unfree market) and the right way, which is summarized in the slogan, “Own or Be Owned.” Under our current system, as technology replaces labor, ownership of capital assets is becoming more concentrated, aggregate purchasing power is declining, citizens are less and less powerful in the world of politics, and many people are experiencing hardship. The capitalist system is designed to result in a concentration of ownership of capital assets; and this isn’t a recent development. Capitalism is better than socialism, but it is doomed to fail, to lead to the servile state. We need a truly free market, and this will be achieved only if there is widespread ownership of capital assets.

  • Antonio A. Badilla

    Clare, is the Pope echoing Marxism or is he echoing Catholic social teaching? Don’t you think it is a bit arrogant to cite the Scriptures to the Vicar of Christ?

  • http://CatholicVote Clare

    When The Pope says,” A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State,” he is echoing Marxism, not Christianity. Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs; He did not tell the government to do so. Beware of anyone who puts government control above individual conscience.

    • Will

      Individuals have the opportunity to help solve income inequity and other problems. When individuals solve the problems, governments can reduce or eliminate their efforts.

      • TM

        What I see increasingly is government that hampers the efforts of those would create and grow businesses, expand opportunity and thus help solve income inequity. The government does not often take steps that reduce its own control and power, regardless of whether there is a true met need or not. I rather agree with Clare. Legitimizing government power for honorable and just ends in no way guarantees that the government will not take and expand that power for its own unjust ends.

        • Will

          There are too many government programs that should be consolidated and simplified. Some things should be eliminated. However, there is still a need for government involvement in many areas. Most Americans agree with that and do not want the government dismantled.



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