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     UNIS/SG/2365
    14 September 1999
    Debate on World’s Agenda Contains Practicalities and Element of Prayer 
    Says Secretary-General in Remarks to Annual Prayer Service

     

    NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks made by Secretary- General Kofi Annan at the Church of the Holy Family in New York on 13 September:
     

     It gives me great pleasure to join you for this annual prayer service.  Let me begin by paying special tribute to the United Nations Parish of the Church of the Holy Family, which this year celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary.  The United Nations has been pleased to be your neighbour and to have you as a partner in our work for human well-being.  As the Holy Father Pope John Paul II has said, "The politics of nations can never ignore the transcendent, spiritual dimension of the human experience".

     I would also like to thank their excellencies Cardinal O'Connor and Archbishop Martino for their commitment to the United Nations and its global mission.  I know that our prayers are with the Cardinal for a full and speedy recovery from his recent surgery, and it is good to know that he was back in the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday.

     This moment on the United Nations calendar, as we close one session of the General Assembly and open another, is always filled with both regret and promise.  Regret, because inevitably we have failed to accomplish everything on our ambitious agenda; because the conflicts and suffering of the year just past have shown us again the fragility of our work; because hatred and greed seem to have the upper hand in too many societies; and because poverty remains the lot of more than half of all humankind.

     But there is promise, too -- guarded promise, but promise just the same.  For it is possible to see signs of progress in the human condition.  Life expectancy is increasing; literacy is spreading; more and more people are living under relatively pluralist and democratic regimes; global awareness of human rights is on the rise.  Year by year, generation by generation, we do move forward.

     In the weeks to come, we will closely examine the state of our world, our ambivalent global predicament, and consider how we can do better:  how to help the poorest and marginalized who are not sharing in the fruits of globalization; how to prevent war and the proliferation of deadly weapons; how to safeguard the environment of our one and only earth; how to uphold human dignity.

     On one level, our discussions will be about substance -- about this or that resolution, this or that situation, this or that plan of action, and so on.  But on another level, I believe, those discussions will be suffused with an undeniable element of prayer -- a prayer that we will find the wisdom and wherewithal to do the right things to make our world a more just and fraternal place for all peoples.

     So let us pray together today.  Let us also remember what Hippocrates said so long ago: "Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand."

     That is what we are here for -- to support our prayers with good works, in all our communities and, here at the United Nations, as the international community.
     

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