UN agency heads laud Pope John Paul’s giant role on world’s humanitarian stage

4 April 2005

From his compassion for disadvantaged children to his commitment to the world’s hungry masses, from his support for a dialogue between civilizations to his advocacy of international tourism, the United Nations system paid tribute to Pope John Paul II for the giant role he played on the global humanitarian stage.

From his compassion for disadvantaged children to his commitment to the world’s hungry masses, and from his support for a dialogue between civilizations to his advocacy of international tourism, the United Nations system paid tribute to Pope John Paul II for the giant role he played on the global humanitarian stage.

The Security Council observed a minute of silence today in honour of the man whom Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised as "a tireless advocate of peace" with a deep commitment to the UN.

Quoting from the message Mr. Annan delivered immediately after the Pope's death on Saturday, the Council President for April, Ambassador Wang Guangya of China, called John Paul "a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself."

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the world's children had lost one of their greatest friends.

"The Pope made the dignity and care of children one of his most constant themes," she added, noting that he had spoken frequently against the exploitation of children and pushed world leaders to fulfil their commitments to child survival, health and general well-being.

“He understood the special light that glows in children, and he cherished it and drew strength from it. He was a special voice for children,” she said in Manila, Philippines, where she was on a visit.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, praised the Pope as a great humanitarian with a huge capacity for compassion who had provided inspiration for generations of faithful, irrespective of their religion.

“I think that more than anything else he personified a commitment to helping others – he was an extraordinary humanitarian, whose compassion was an example to us all,” Mr. Morris said at WFP headquarters in Rome.

“I was deeply impressed by his dedication to the poor and hungry – and in particular his interest in the welfare of children,” he added. “Pope John Paul II's energy and determination to visit millions of the Catholic faithful gave him an exceptional understanding of the world's peoples and their problems. He knew at first hand what it is to suffer. This gave him a special affinity for those who suffer from hunger and poverty around the world.”

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) focused on the Pope’s role in bridging the gulf between civilizations.

“For decades, this spiritual guide placed his extraordinary energy, charisma and eloquence at the service of peace and inter-religious dialogue. The immense crowds that followed his numerous travels clearly illustrated his vision of universal brotherhood,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said.

“John Paul II was firm in his convictions and expressed his profound faith while all the while encouraging dialogue. From the ecumenical encounters in Assisi to his day of fasting coinciding in 2001 with the end of Ramadan, and his visit in 1986 to a synagogue in Rome, the Pontiff worked unceasingly to promote dialogue between different religions,” he added.

“Throughout his pontificate, John Paul II was also a messenger of peace: receiving (Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat in 1982 and establishing official relations between Israel and the Vatican, he tried wherever and whenever possible to prevent conflict. His quest for peace led him to express himself several times at the United Nations.”

For its part, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) stressed the Pope’s role as a world traveller who insisted that tourism be developed in an ethical manner and personally supported the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted by the agency in 1999.

WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli recalled the Pope’s words on a visit to the agency’s headquarters in Madrid in 1982. “Tourism is not only a normal and current act of economic consumption, it is a value in itself,” the pontiff said then.

Mr. Frangialli also recalled what was to be John Paul II’s final annual message for World Tourism Day last year: “Tourism improves relationships between individuals and peoples; when those relationships are cordial, respectful and based on solidarity they constitute, as it were, an open door to peace and harmonious coexistence.”