Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre fittingly used heroic stories of 9/11 victims and Archbishop Oscar Romero to lead into prayer before the start of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Bishop Barres delivered the meditation at the prayer service at the Church of the Holy Family, often called the United Nations Parish, Sept. 11.
“We ask God in a special way to grant the leaders and all those who work at or for the United Nations the gift of compassion and passion so that, like Archbishop Romero hearing the cries of the poor, needy and abandoned, they may live up to the high hope the people of the world place in them and indeed lead the way to a more united, fraternal, just and merciful world,” said Bishop Barres in closing the meditation.
The 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly began Sept. 12. The general debate follows Sept. 19 with its theme, “Focusing on people: Striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.”
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, led the prayer service offered by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the Archdiocese of New York. Prayers were offered for peace, our Earth and refugees and migrants. United Nations diplomats and employees as well as parishioners and religious leaders of different faiths attended the service.
During his meditation, Bishop Barres shared the story of the August visit to the Diocese of Rockville Centre of Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the first Salvadoran cardinal, who was mentored by Archbishop Romero. Archbishop Romero was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital. Archbishop Romero was beatified in 2015, one of the steps on the path to canonization.
“Archbishop Romero was executed because he would not bend in his defense of the intrinsic value of the lives of all people, especially the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable,” Bishop Barres said.
“Archbishop Romero humbly shows us how to focus on people and strive effectively for peace and a decent life for all.”
Bishop Barres also remembered the victims and heroes of the attacks on the 16th anniversary of 9/11 and a series of individual profiles of the heroes and victims that followed in the New York Times.
“The underlying theme of this series was those who died on 9/11 still matter, still inspire us and are mysteriously still with us,’’ he said.
Father Gerald Murray, pastor of Holy Family, delivered the invocation. He mentioned a quote from Pope Francis on his recent trip to Colombia where the Holy Father asked the people of South American country to be builders of peace and bring love and mercy where there is resentment and hatred.
Father Murray said Pope Francis’ words “can serve as an inspiration for those who work at the United Nations for the essential goals of peace and reconciliation of nations and peoples divided by warfare and hatred.”
Miroslav Lajcak, president of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly; Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations; Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary general; and Peter Thomson, president of the 71st General Assembly session, were among the U.N. dignitaries to attend the prayer service.
“The faith communities are and must continue to be a valuable partner to the United Nations. We must learn from their experiences and knowledge. We must support each other in our work toward one common goal: to make the world a better place for all people to live in,” Lajcak said at the prayer service.
Guterres also addressed the congregation. “We come from many nations and we practice many faiths,” he said. “As this place of worship reminds us, we are all one family. Despite our many differences, our common humanity unites us.
“The United Nations is very much a part of the fabric of New York and we draw strengths from its diversity and vibrancy.”