Pope Champions Earth, Poor in UN Speech

     (CN) – Pope Francis tackled a host of international woes Friday at the first papal address to open a summit of the United Nations General Assembly.
     World peace, women’s education, terrorism, drug and human trafficking, and religious freedoms all received a mention in the pontiff’s hour-long speech before the 70th gathering of the international body in Manhattan.
     The UN’s 2015 Sustainable Development Summit is set to kick off Monday, and Francis became the first pope today to open such an event. He is otherwise the fourth pope to address the United Nations.
     “Every creature has an intrinsic value,” the 78-year-old pontiff from Argentina said, his native Spanish translated by an interpreter and televised live.
     The Roman Catholic Church’s first Jesuit pope lived up to his namesake, the patron saint of ecology, in discussing respect for life and the environment.
     “We believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by its creator … to use creation for the good of his fellow man but he is not authorized to abuse it,” Francis said.
     “In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good,” he added.
     Championing for the poor whom society has “cast off,” Francis railed against the “widespread and quietly growing culture of waste.”
     The so-called “People’s Pope” called upon the world to put “an end to exclusion.”
     Reached out to Muslims for peace, Francis noted that religious freedoms are “the right to life and what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.”
     Bemoaning acts of terror, Francis called for an end to “further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities, and to protect innocent peoples.”
     Francis departed the UN after the speech to visit the former site of the World Trade Center, where he is scheduled to meet with families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
     New York City is the second stop on the pope’s first tour of the United States. He took a helicopter into the city Wednesday from Washington, D.C., shortly after addressing a joint session of Congress.
     The Popemobile will escort Francis through Central Park later today, and he will then hold evening mass at Madison Square Garden.
     Francis is scheduled to depart for Philadelphia on Saturday morning.

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