Cardinal Dolan, in a meditation at the annual Prayer Service on the Vigil of the Opening of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, acknowledged the milestone “of this august body’s existence” and “a time for more intense reflection and rededication.”
“That we would commence the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations with prayer is appropriate indeed,” the cardinal said. Acknowledging God “as creator and ruler of the universe allows us to defend and foster the communal bond that connects all of humanity. To promote the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of all human life that is a corollary to that bond, this is a noble purpose of the United Nations.”
Amid the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic, the cardinal acknowledged how Covid-19 has displayed humanity’s interconnectedness and heightened the planet’s solicitude for elders and the vulnerable, and unleashed “heroic acts of sacrificial service,” including by medical professionals, police and rescue workers, teachers and priests.
Covid-19, the cardinal continued, has also “slowed us down, coaxing us to savor some quiet, to cherish again our families and friends, to cultivate faith and prayer, concern for others and outreach to the wider community.”
At the same time, it has shown “the vulnerability of health care networks, reminding us of how many had no access at all.”
“While we mourn and continue to battle the virus, we do rejoice in these good promptings...so consonant with the values espoused by the United Nations for three quarters of a century.”
The Sept. 14 prayer service, at Holy Family Church in Manhattan, was offered on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The date neared the five-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2015.
The United Nations has always paid attention to those who suffer injustice, wounds, rejection, hunger, thirst and brutality, as did Jesus on the cross, Cardinal Dolan said.
“That cross,” he said, led to “the victory of resurrection that first Easter”; the United Nations “rose from the death and darkness of World War II 75 years ago.”
The cardinal also cited the address Pope St. Paul VI delivered 55 years ago to the United Nations General Assembly on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4, 1965.
The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations has sponsored the prayer service since 1987. This year, because of Covid-19 restrictions, attendance was limited to 50 participants. The liturgy was livestreamed via the mission’s YouTube channel.
A Prayer for an End to the Coronavirus Pandemic was recited early in the prayer service.
“...Support leaders of peoples at every level, so that with wisdom and solicitude they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity…
“Embrace all your children in distress and stretch out your all-powerful hand to free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course...”
Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in his concluding prayer, said, “As we begin the work of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, O Lord, we praise and thank you for all your blessings and humbly ask you for your aid…
“Help us to accomplish what we have not yet been able to do on our own so that we might be your instruments to bring about a world of peace, justice and fraternal welcome, where no one is left behind, everyone’s dignity and rights are respected and protected, and peoples’ integral development is advanced and achieved.”
Archbishop Caccia’s appointment as apostolic nuncio to the U.N. was announced by the Vatican last November.
António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, delivered remarks via video. Covid-19, he said, has exacerbated inequalities within and among countries, and is reversing hard-won progress on poverty eradication, food security and other sustainable development goals. Additionally, he said, it has caused the closing of places of worship.
The crisis, he continued, “highlights both the interdependency and the fragility of our worlds. It shows that no one can do it alone. It reminds us why international cooperation is essential.”
“Our common family is at the crossroads. We will only succeed through unity, leadership and solidarity.”
The secretary-general concluded his remarks with an appeal to all leaders to join forces. “Let us pray to build on our collective strengths, and not only defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, but build a more equal, more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
Known as the United Nations parish, Holy Family, on East 47th Street, is located around the corner from U.N. headquarters. The pastor of Holy Family, Father Gerald Murray, welcomed all and delivered the invocation.
Prayers of Petition were offered in Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, French and English.
A Prayer for Peace was also recited, as was A Prayer for Our Earth, the latter taken from the prayer by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”