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Holy See is a ‘light bearer for the Gospel’ at UN, says archbishop

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, elevates the Eucharist as he celebrates a pontifical Mass at Holy Family Church in New York City Sept. 25, 2023. At left is Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations. Archbishop Gallagher visited New York Sept. 17-26 to participate in the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, elevates the Eucharist as he celebrates a pontifical Mass at Holy Family Church in New York City Sept. 25, 2023. At left is Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations. Archbishop Gallagher visited New York Sept. 17-26 to participate in the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

By Steven Schwankert

NEW YORK (OSV News) — Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, celebrated an evening Mass at the Church of the Holy Family Sept. 25, joined by invited guests from the New York-based diplomatic community, as the United Nations entered the second week of its annual general session.

“I believe that is the context in the celebration of this Mass to express to each of you the thanks of Pope Francis for the friendship and support of the work that you generously offer to the Mission of the Holy See in New York,” Archbishop Gallagher said at the beginning of his homily.

Although largely confined to the day’s Gospel, the archbishop tied his remarks back to the work of his concelebrant, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the permanent observer to the Holy See to the United Nations.

“Jesus used the image of a lamp to describe how his disciples are to live in the light of his truth and love. Our mission is to be light bearers of Christ, so that others may see the truth of the Gospel and be freed,” he said. “This is also the mission of the Holy See at the United Nations, to be the light bearer of the Gospel in negotiations, debates, and resolutions take place, in rooms where there is no natural light, but only artificial lighting.”

Approximately 100 diplomats from Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere attended the Mass. Archbishop Caccia concelebrated the Mass, along with a number of other priests. The archbishops were assisted by Father Gerald Murray, pastor of the Church of the Holy Family,.

While in New York, the archbishop, who serves as the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states and international organizations, delivered a number of addresses at the U.N.

Speaking Sept. 26 during a high-level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Archbishop Gallagher called eliminating nuclear weapons a “moral imperative.”

On Sept. 21, he told the High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage that “health is not a luxury; it is for all.” Yet health care “remains out of reach for far too many, particularly in developing countries, despite progress “in expanding access” to quality and affordable health care. He said achieving universal health coverage “requires strategies and resources, including support for health workers, to realize each person’s fundamental right to quality health care, including the poorest and those living in rural areas.”

Although he did not cite specific statistics, Archbishop Gallagher told the assembly that approximately one-quarter of all health care facilities are Catholic, and in some places “faith-based organizations are the only health care providers,” according to Vatican News.

Addressing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council Sept. 20, he called on world leaders to be “creative and courageous artisans of peace and weavers of constructive dialogue” to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine.

Steven Schwankert is digital editor of The Good Newsroom, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of New York.

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