Morgan Obrien serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the United States Mission to the United Nations.
Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the United States maintained its impressive pace as the Holy Father flew from Washington to New York this morning, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly.
As the third pontiff to address the General Assembly, the Holy Father spoke in French and English to a packed auditorium filled with representatives from the UN's 192 member states and discussed our increasingly interconnected world, the importance of protecting the environment, and framed his remarks around the universal necessity to protect human rights.
Along with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the permanent representative of the United States to the UN, and Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, our ambassador to the Holy See, I was fortunate enough to sit with the United States delegation on the floor of the General Assembly for the address. As a native New Yorker, an American and a Catholic, I couldn't have been more proud of my own heritage today and was thrilled by the experience.
Situated in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, there may be no more appropriate place for a body called the United Nations than New York City. This city is an incredible melting pot of hundreds of cultures, languages, traditions and faiths that come together each day to provide the energy for what Benedict's predecessor John Paul II called, "the capital of the world."
Only a few generations removed from immigrants who passed through New York Harbor on their way towards pursuing the American Dream, I could only imagine what my great grandparents would think if they knew that a century later, I'd be on hand for a papal address. As European Catholics, I imagine they'd take great pride in the fact that the Holy Father would visit New York, their new home, although I'm sure they wouldn't know about the United Nations because the organization didn't yet exist.
The word catholic means "universal," and in addition to serving as the spiritual leader of an institution of 1 billion members, the Holy Father's remarks focused on the universal values we share. Specifically, the Holy Father spoke of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2008, and the importance of respecting one another. This message transcends any one specific faith and reached the wide-ranging audience on hand for today's address.
Today, the Holy Father provided a powerful message to a global audience on a grand state. Sitting in the audience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will always remember with pride in my faith, my state and my nation.