On the afternoon of October 4, 1965, I remember standing in the South Bronx, at the northeast corner of the Grand Concourse at 138th Street. I was anxiously waiting for a chance to see the motorcade of Pope Paul VI, as he was traveling to Yankee Stadium to say Mass for thousands of people. This was the first time in history that a Pope ever visited the United States so there was a great deal of excitement. At that time, Pope Paul VI was called, “The Pilgrim Pope” because he had visited many countries. That was something very different from previous Pontiffs. I was very excited and thrilled to get a chance to see the Pope in person. Today Pope Paul VI, along with Archbishop, Oscar Romero, of El Salvador, and others were canonized in Rome in front of thousands of people, as well as a huge international television audience.
However, on that day back in 1965, the main purpose for the Pope’s visit was to address the United Nations General Assembly, which at that time consisted of 117 Member States. The United Nations was celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and he was the first Pope to ever address the General Assembly. During his address to the world leaders he called for an end to war, violence, and poverty. He also spoke about the world’s food supply relative to the increasing population. Additionally, he spoke about the importance of recognizing the dignity and value of human life. He firmly stated that any efforts to deal with a growing population should not include or consider the use of any methods of artificial birth control, saying this would lead to a decline in morality as well as result in increases of other unanticipated problems.
Now, many years later, there are still countless people in countries around the world who continue to live in poverty. Many of them still lack representation and are effectively voiceless. They still need advocates to represent them, and to give them an opportunity to voice their needs and concerns.
The Vincentian Team at the United Nations, in conjunction with other NGO’s, are working as advocates to help represent them on various issues. Currently, various team members are working as members of different committees or sub-committees to assist in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Our team members meet together on a regular scheduled basis to discuss issues and plan strategy. These committees include areas such as, Education, Poverty, Grass-Roots issues, Human-Trafficking, Gender Equality involving the Rights of Women and Girls, Water & Oceans, and the Rights of Indigenous People.
The team is also currently working on a long-range project to address the world-wide problem of homelessness. This project although relatively new is gaining traction and creating interest among other NGO’s at the United Nations. Some of these NGO’s are slowly joining with us concerning this important issue. The team has already organized what is referred to as a Working Group To End Homelessness. This working group has produced a “Position Paper” that very soon will be presented to members of the General Assembly to draw more attention to this important issue. Hopefully as a result of the advocacy efforts of the working group the problem of homelessness will be addressed and some positive action by Member States will result.
Ed Keane is the UN NGO Representative for the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul