DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     September 16, 1999     vol. 10, no. 176

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Prayer Meeting at Opening of 54th General Assembly

        NEW YORK, SEP 15 (ZENIT).- The 54th U.N. General Assembly opened yesterday, while the Security Council discussed the resolution to authorize the sending of a peace mission to East Timor, confirming the fact that the search for world stability continues to be the organization's primary objective. However, this year the delegates must address other urgent problems, including the struggle against poverty and the debate on the organization's reformation, to make it more efficient in the modern world.

        Yesterday's session was primarily of ceremonial significance: the new president of the Assembly, Namibia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, took up his post and new members of the south Pacific were admitted -- including Kiribati, Nauro and Tonga.

    International Year of Culture of Peace

        The debates will begin next week. Secretary General Kofi Annan and leaders of U.N. member nations will be among the participants. But yesterday, Annan tried to set the pace at the Assembly by proclaiming the opening of the International Year of the Culture of Peace. In his recent report on the organization's work, the Secretary General emphasized the increase in conflicts over the last few years and of victims, as well as damages caused by natural disasters. In order to respond to these emergencies, Annan invited the countries represented at the U.N. to develop a culture of prevention, instead of delayed reaction to wars and natural catastrophes.

    Pontifical Message

        The Secretary General referred to these ideas during the prayer meeting organized by the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the U.N., Archbishop Renato Martino, at the Assembly's opening. John Paul II sent a message through Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, in which he requested the United Nations to become an ever more effective instrument of dialogue. And Cardinal John O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, emphasized the need to defend human dignity, inviting delegates to place themselves at the service of people.

        The topic of internal U.N. reform remains an open question, which became critical first in Kosovo and currently in East Timor. Richard Holbrooke, the new U.S. ambassador, repeated yesterday that his country favors the enlargement of the Security Council, with a view to admitting Japan and Germany. However, some countries, like Italy, have been opposed to this idea for many years. No doubt the issue will continue to be hotly debated during the current Assembly. ZE99091508

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

September 16, 1999       volume 10, no. 176


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