By Emily Drooby and Christopher White
NEW YORK – In his first public event since arriving as the new papal ambassador to the United Nations, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia said Pope Francis believes the multilateral organization remains a “much-needed…global forum for facing global problems.”
At a welcome Mass on Tuesday, Archbishop Caccia mentioned that this year marks the 75-year anniversary of the founding of the U.N., recalling that the institution was established in the aftermath of the atrocities of World War II.
“Never Again,” he pleaded in reference to those events, calling on U.N. leaders to “go back” to the principles that led to its founding.
During his 15-minute homily, the Italian archbishop said that the task of those who work at the United Nations was to help those who do not have a voice, particularly through the promotion of human dignity.
“We work gladly with this institution trying to bring a contribution for the good of the world,” Archbishop Caccia said, saying that the U.N. has changed and may continue to do so, but assuring attendees that Francis supports its work.
Pope Francis addressed the members in 2015, and while he has repeatedly hailed the institution for its global peacebuilding efforts – and in recent years allied with global leaders to push for greater ecological attention – on several occasions within the past year he has raised concerns about the Security Council where one country can manage to veto a resolution and buck emerging consensus on an issue.
Last November, en route to Rome from Japan where he called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons, the pontiff told reporters that “if there is a problem with armaments and everyone agrees to solve the problem to avoid a conflict, everyone votes ‘yes.’ One country with the right of veto votes ‘no,’ and everything stops.”
During his visit to the Vatican in December, the U.N. Secretary General met with Pope Francis, and in an interview afterwards expressed support for the reform of the Security Council.
“I fully agree with Kofi Annan when he said that there will be no complete reform of the United Nations without reform of the Security Council. The present Council still reflects the world of 1945,” he said at the time. “That being said, the U.N. Charter is clear: it is up to Member States to determine how the Security Council will be reformed, and I hope that they will do so.”
Reflecting on the Gospel passage of Mark where Jesus challenges the crowd to consider “who are my mother and my brothers?” Archbishop Caccia told the crowd full of diplomats and government officials that “Jesus brings us to consider the other in a different way. Maybe when we go deeper, we find new relations.”
In an organization, such as the U.N., which depends on partnerships and strong relations for its diplomatic work, Archbishop Caccia encouraged attendees to focus on “the other” rather than merely one’s own interests.
The Mass was concelebrated by over a dozen priests and Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour and took place at New York’s Church of the Holy Family, the Catholic parish church to the United Nations.
In honor of the occasion, Archbishop Caccia used a chalice that was presented to the parish by Pope St. Paul VI when he visited the church during his October 1965 trip to the United Nations.
Archbishop Caccia arrived at his post earlier this month, following the Vatican announcement of his appointment in November. He presented his credentials earlier in the day on Tuesday to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
He succeeds Filipino-born Archbishop Bernardito Auza who held the post from 2014 to 2019, and is now the nuncio to Spain and the Principality of Andorra.
Archbishop Caccia, age 61, was ordained a priest of the archdiocese of Milan in 1983 by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini before studying in Rome at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican’s school for future diplomats. He graduated in 1991. He holds a Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) and a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL) from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
His most recent appointment was in the Philippines, where he served as nuncio for two years, joking on Tuesday that while the Philippines has sun and beaches, in New York, “everyone is running.”
Previously, he held posts at the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Tanzania, and Lebanon.
Archbishop Caccia is now the seventh Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York since the Holy See became a Permanent Observer State on April 6, 1964.