Vatican City – Recognizing the important role each other plays on the global stage, Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Tuesday at the Vatican, discussing common efforts to promote peace and protect human dignity.
“The United Nations and the Holy See share common goals and ideals,” the U.N. secretary-general told the pope as the two sat across from each other at a desk in the papal library. Reporters were ushered out of the room at that point.
With translation assistance from a monsignor in the Vatican Secretariat of State, the pope and Ban spent about 20 minutes speaking privately.
The two spoke specifically about “situations of conflict and serious humanitarian emergencies, especially in Syria,” but also about the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and in several African countries “where peace and stability are threatened,” said a statement from the Vatican press office.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, who spoke with the pope after Ban left, said the pope and the U.N. leader also talked about the problem of human trafficking, especially of women — a global problem of particular concern to Pope Francis and one that he denounced in his Easter message as “the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century.”
Pope Francis spoke about the ways the Catholic church, as a religious institution, promotes many of the same goals as the United Nations, particularly on behalf of a holistic protection of human dignity and in the promotion of a “culture of encounter,” the Vatican statement said.
Lombardi said the phrase is one the pope used often as archbishop of Buenos Aires to describe his approach to the promotion of dialogue, understanding and respect among people and among religions, recognizing differences, but not allowing them to prevent meetings and discussions.
After their private meeting, Ban introduced to the pope members of his entourage, which included his wife, his Argentine chief of staff and the U.N. undersecretary for disarmament.
Pope Francis went around the room giving each guest a small boxed rosary, which still carries the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI; a papal aide said they are awaiting the arrival of rosaries with Pope Francis’ emblem.
Pope Francis spoke a few words of English during the meeting. Presenting a mosaic to Ban, the pope said, “This is for you.” Then he immediately switched to Italian to describe it as a view of Rome.
Ban gave the pope a blue-bound tome containing the text of the United Nations Charter in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. He told the pope the charter reflects “the goals and objectives of human beings, which you also promote.”
The U.N. secretary-general went from the papal library to a meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then spoke briefly with reporters. He said he invited the pope to visit the United Nations — an invitation the Vatican acknowledged, but without making a commitment to attend — and said he was particularly pleased the new pope chose the name Francis, because it has come to signify a commitment to peacemaking.
Ban Ki Moon with Pope Francis
United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has described Pope Francis as “a man of peace and purpose” after meeting the new Pontiff at the Vatican.
Speaking to reporters after his audience with the Pope, Ki-moon said: “It was an uplifting and hopeful meeting. Pope Francis is a man of peace and purpose.He is a voice for the voiceless. I look forward to continuing our conversation and following in the tradition of his predecessors I was delighted to invite Pope Francis to visit the United Nations at his earliest convenience.”
The UN secretary general went on to praise Pope Francis’s ability to reach out to people of other faiths and non-believers, describing him as a “bridge builder”. He also highlighted the Holy Father’s compassion for the poor. “I told His Holiness that his choice of name after St Francis of Assisi was a powerful image for the many goals and purposes shared by the United Nations,” he said.
“He speaks loudly of his commitment to the poor, he has a deep sense of humility, his passion and compassion to improve the human condition. I was also very heartened by the commitment of Pope Francis to build bridges among the communities of faith.
“I strongly believe that inter-faith dialogue can point a way to a deeper appreciation of shared values which in turn can lead to tolerance inclusion and peace. This is the driving force of the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations initiative and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to speak with Pope Francis about furthering this work”.
The meeting was in accordance with the tradition of audiences granted by the Popes to successive UN secretary generals. Issues discussed included global conflicts and humanitarian emergencies, including Syria. Reference was also made to the problem of people trafficking and that of refugees and migrants.
Ki-moon, who recently began his second term in office, also presented his five year program to Pope Francis, which focused on conflict prevention, international solidarity and equitable and sustainable economic development.