The United Nations General Assembly today paid tribute to Pope John Paul II, standing in a minute of silence after its President, Jean Ping of Gabon, extended his condolences to the Vatican community, all Catholics and all throughout the world who had been touched and inspired by the life of the late pontiff.
Representatives of the regional groupings at the UN then took the floor to deliver encomiums for the man whom Ambassador Brown Beswick Chimphamba of Malawi, speaking for Africa, called the embodiment of compassion who had represented the poor, the voiceless, the marginalized, the desperate and the oppressed.
On behalf of the Asian States, Ambassador Daw Penjo of Bhutan called the Pope not only the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church but a true leader for all, who had devoted his life to the cause of peace, harmony and justice.
Ambassador Tiina Intelmann of Estonia, on behalf of Eastern European States, said John Paul had been a great humanist and protector of morality, who had dedicated his whole life to spiritual liberation, moral self-betterment and tolerance.
Speaking for the Latin American and Caribbean States, Ambassador Philip Sealy of Trinidad and Tobago called the pontiff a genuinely charismatic figure and an enormous force for good in the world, whose influence had gone far beyond his own congregation.
Ambassador Anders Lidén of Sweden, on behalf of the Group of Western European and other States, said the Pope would be particularly remembered for his role in ending the division of Europe.
Speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ambassador Baki Ilkin of Turkey said that the international community would remember the late Pope as a man of peace, humanity and compassion who personified brotherhood, tolerance, righteousness and the coexistence of all religions.
Ambassador Jean-Marc Hoscheit of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, recalled that almost 10 years ago the late Pope stood at the General Assembly rostrum and spoke about the human principles of dignity, liberty, respect for others and solidarity, with the UN as the moral centre of the world.
Polish Ambassador Andrzej Towpik said his country was bidding farewell not only to a great man, but also to the greatest Pole in human history, whose words and deeds should remain a great guidance in efforts to make the UN a better organization.
Celestino Migliore, Observer for the Holy See, recalled that during his first visit to the UN in 1979, the late Pope attached great importance to collaboration with the UN as the place best suited to addressing all the challenges facing mankind and had wanted dearly to see it develop more effective strategies than war to solve humankind's problems.