In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015 in New York, Pope Francis chose not to mention the name of Jesus Christ. Rather, he addressed the assembled nations “in his own name”.
Below is the opening statement of the speech of the Pope:
Following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude.
The name of Jesus was never mentioned during the entire speech. In his subsequent addresses to the U.S. Congress, as well as in the White House, the name of Jesus still was not mentioned. Following the speech, many Catholic commentators pointed out that the Pope speaks in the name of Jesus, and should therefore explicitly invoke his name in order to direct national and world leaders to the light of Christ and His teaching.
Many argued in response that the U.N. function, as well as the White House and U.S. Congress speeches, were diplomatic functions, justifying that it may not be appropriate to mention the Lord’s name. It will be helpful to recall Scripture and the experience of Peter and the Apostles in the face of government and religious authorities’ prohibition of using the name of Jesus: “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name.” [Acts 5:28] St. Peter and the apostles did not obey the restriction, obviously. Shouldn’t the present successor of St. Peter likewise do the same and follow his example?
John Paul II Made Reference to Jesus Six Times in His U.N. Address
When St. Pope John Paul II addressed the U.N. General Assembly on October 5, 1995 in New York, he explicitly mentioned Jesus six times.
Here is what John Paul II said to the U.N. Assembly:
As a Christian, my hope and trust are centered on Jesus Christ, the two thousandth anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated at the coming of the new millennium. We Christians believe that in his Death and Resurrection were fully revealed God’s love and His care for all creation. Jesus Christ is for us God made man, and made a part of the history of humanity. Precisely for this reason, Christian hope for the world and its future extends to every human person. Because of the radiant humanity of Christ, nothing genuinely human fails to touch the hearts of Christians. Faith in Christ does not impel us to intolerance. On the contrary, it obliges us to engage others in a respectful dialogue. Love of Christ does not distract us from interest in others, but rather invites us to responsibility for them, to the exclusion of no one and indeed, if anything, with a special concern for the weakest and the suffering. Thus, as we approach the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Church asks only to be able to propose respectfully this message of salvation, and to be able to promote, in charity and service, the solidarity of the entire human family.
Benedict XVI’s Address to the U.N.
In his address to the U.N. General Assembly on April 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI referred the United Nations to the “saving work of Jesus Christ”:
In my recent Encyclical, Spe Salvi, I indicated that “every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs” (no. 25). For Christians, this task is motivated by the hope drawn from the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Seven Speeches, No Mention of Jesus
Pope Francis has a history of choosing to omit the name of Jesus in various speeches. In November 2014 he also omitted the Name of Jesus from his speech to the European Parliament. In July, 2014 when giving his “Top Ten List” about “how to be happier”, Pope Francis proposed many ideas, including “live and let live“, “stop being negative“, “respect nature”, but without mentioning Jesus Christ as the true source of joy in human life.
The website www.wildvoice.org analyzed seven major speeches of the Pope during trips to the United States and Cuba. The speeches were the following: Speech to Cuban Youth, September 20, 2015; In-flight Press Conference, September 22, 2015; Speech on White House Lawn, September 23, 2015; Address to United States Congress, September 24, 2015; Address to United Nations, September 25, 2015; Speech at “Ground Zero” at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, September 25, 2015; Address to World Meeting of Families, September 26, 2015. The analysis revealed that the 7 speeches had roughly 13,000 words, but zero mention of Jesus. Below are some of the top words used in the speeches:
“I” – 198 times
“human” – 42 times
“society/social” – 42 times
“dream(s)/dreaming” – 36 times
“Me” – 28 times
“environment” – 18 times
“future” – 21 times
“brother” – 13 times
“economic” – 11 times
“fraternity/fraternal” – 7 times