Pope Benedict XVI gives strong support to United Nations

New York, USA - Pope Benedict XVI gave Friday a resounding support to the international organization, drawing on similarities between the missions of the Catholic Church and the UN in their responsibility to protect and help people on Earth attain basic freedoms. The real nature and depth of the German-born pope and leader of church dogma came forth in his lengthy address to the United Nations General Assembly, packed with representatives from 192 countries, urging the organization to realize its mission.

"My presence at this assembly is a sign of esteem for the United Nations, and it is intended to express the hope that the organization will increasingly serve as a sign of unity between states and an instrument of service to the entire human family," the pope said, speaking in French.

"It also demonstrates the willingness of the Catholic Church to offer her proper contribution to building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference," he said.

Benedict said the Church can contribute her experience "of humanity" to the UN.

He said human rights must include the right to religious freedom as an expression of the individual and the community.

"The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security," the pontiff said.

Benedict called for the full guarantee of religious freedom, which should not be limited to the exercise of worship, but to the full public dimension of religion that will allow the believers to play a role in society.

Benedict said the UN, ensconced in a small place in busy New York, has a worldwide mission to promote "peace and justice." He pointed out that the tiny Vatican City also has to exercise its "universal mission and apostolate."

"In the internal debates of the UN, increasing emphasis is being placed on the are sponsibilities to protect,'" the pope said. "Indeed this is coming to be recognized as the moral basis for a government's claim to authority."

"This organization performs an important service, in the name of the international community, by monitoring the extent to which governments fulfil their responsibility to protect their citizens," he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who welcomed the pope earlier on arrival in his 38th floor office, reminded the pope that the UN is a secular body, using six official languages, but has no official religion. It has a small meditation room, however.

"Whether we worship one God, many or none - we in the UN have to sustain and strengthen our faith every day," Ban said before Benedict delivered his speech.

"I am profoundly grateful (to) His Holiness Benedict XVI for bestowing some of his faith on us - and for placing his trust in us," Ban said. "He possesses both of these in abundance."

Benedict was greeted also by Srgjan Kerim, president of the 192-nation assembly, who also wished him a happy 81st birthday, which occurred on Wednesday when he was visiting Washington and was given a reception there.