First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

U.N. Diplomats Mark General Assembly Opening at Prayer Service
Maria R. Bastone
SHRINE—Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Sullivan, vicar general, dedicates new shrine to Blessed Pope John Paul II in Holy Family Church, assisted by the pastor, Father Robert Robbins.

A new shrine honoring Blessed Pope John Paul II was unveiled at Holy Family Church, the United Nations parish in Manhattan, during a prayer service marking the opening of the 66th U.N. General Assembly.

The Sept. 12 service, held the day after the city observed the 10th anniversary of 9/11, also gave U.N. officials—including the secretary-general and the Vatican nuncio—an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences on the day of the World Trade Center attacks.

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, said he was serving at the time as chief of staff to the incoming president of the General Assembly and was attending a prayer breakfast at U.N. headquarters when the first of the two hijacked planes struck the Twin Towers.

“The terrorists were at that very moment attacking the World Trade Center, attacking the core values of the United Nations—peace, freedom, justice…and human rights,” Ban said.

He said the ensuing tumult in the city meant the formal swearing in of the General Assembly president could not take place that day, “leaving a leadership vacuum for the first time in the 56-year history of the United Nations.”

When the world body did convene the following day, with much difficulty and under tight security, “there were many questions and almost no answers” among the member nations, Ban said.

“But we were certain of one fact: The international community was united in solidarity with the victims and their families and united against the terrorists,” he said.

Ban also expressed thanks to the faith communities in the city and around the world for their “compassionate influence on so many people.”

“We count on you to inspire and to instill in…us a sense of greater purpose that must guide our mission of peace,” he said.

Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Vatican to the United Nations, said he also was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and said it is a day he will never forget.

“So many lives were lost, and so many heroes were born,” he said.

Archbishop Chullikatt also read a message from Pope Benedict XVI to the United Nations, in which the pope joined those present “in asking almighty God to guide and sustain their efforts…(toward) the universal common good.”

The prayer service, held each year on the eve of the General Assembly session, is sponsored by the archdiocese, the Vatican’s U.N. mission and Holy Family parish.

Archbishop Dolan, who ordinarily would have attended, was in Washington, D.C., on business connected to his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Auxiliary Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan, vicar general, read a message from Archbishop Dolan offering his support for the United Nations in its “critical work” of fostering justice and peace throughout the world. He said also that the events of 9/11 and its aftermath underscore “the need for us to work together.”

Bishop Sullivan also blessed Holy Family’s new shrine to Blessed Pope John Paul II, who addressed the United Nations in 1979 and 1995.


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