Pope calls on UN to fulfil responsibilities


Pope Benedict ushered in the first New Year of his papacy today by urging humanity to take a leap of faith in God to prevent terrorism, nihilism and fanatical fundamentalism undermining peace.

The Pope addressed his homily to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Basilica for New Year's Day mass, celebrated on the Roman Catholic Church's annual World Day of Peace.

There is the need for a leap of courage and faith in God and mankind to choose the path to peace
Pope Benedict

The Pontiff also called on the United Nations to fulfil its responsibilities to promote justice, peace and solidarity in an increasingly globalised world.

"Terrorism, nihilism and fanatical fundamentalism - faced with these threats, it becomes more than necessary to work together for peace," the Pope said.

"There is the need for a leap of courage and faith in God and mankind to choose the path to peace."

Terrorism was an important theme in the Pope's 12-page World Day of Peace message, which was issued last December and sent to heads of state and government and to international organisations around the world for January 1st. In the message, entitled "In Truth, Peace", he also said war could not be an excuse for disregarding international humanitarian law.

The Pope did not name any countries or wars, but his words chimed with reports of abuse of prisoners by the United States in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay. The reports have incensed adversaries of the United States and alienated some of its allies.

At a special year-end thanksgiving mass in the Vatican last night, the Pope praised the deepening dialogue with those of other faiths, but restated his concern that the traditional Christian family was in crisis.

Last night, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern welcomed the Pope's message of peace. "His message is one of hope for a more serene world, especially for those suffering as a result of violence and armed conflict," he said.

Mr Ahern insisted more work was needed to protect human rights and build understanding across communities. ""The connection between the promotion of fundamental rights and the promotion of peace is one that Ireland would equally stress," Mr Ahern said.

The Taoiseach also noted the move by the IRA in putting its weapons beyond use. But he insisted extra efforts had to be made to increase trust between communities. "We have always been conscious of the vital importance of developing trust and understanding between communities damaged by conflict and this remains at the heart of our work today," he said.

The Taoiseach noted the work of the United Nations in peacekeeping and in eradicating poverty. "We seek to combat poverty, hunger and disease around the world," he said. "We must continue to work together and redouble our efforts in taking this vital work forward and we share the call by His Holiness for institutional renewal of the UN to enable it to respond to the changed needs of the present time."

The Taoiseach also welcomed the Pope's desire to see an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the fight against terrorism. Mr Ahern also reiterated his support for the battle against HIV/Aids around the world.