By Mohammed Khader
On September 22, His Holiness Pope Francis paid his first visit to the United States, where he spread his message concerning climate change and social issues with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. The Pope spent two days in Washington, D.C., where he delivered a canonization mass, addressed a joint meeting of Congress, and shared a meal with the local homeless.
After concluding his time in Washington, the Pope traveled to New York where he addressed the 193 world leaders during the opening week of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the summit on sustainable development goals. After addressing the GA, His Holiness held a multi-religious service at the Ground Zero Memorial before delivering a mass to an estimated 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden later that day. The Pope then traveled to Philadelphia to deliver his final mass in the U.S. before returning to the Vatican.
The Pope’s visit was trailed by controversy as a result of his position on Palestine, the Syrian refugee crisis, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On May 17, Pope Francis canonized two Palestinian Nuns at Saint. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Days before, the Pope officially recognized the State of Palestine. Both Palestine and the Vatican hold non-member observer status at the UN. Although many are divided on the situation in Palestine, Pope Francis has called on Palestinian Christians to push for peace and statehood.
The Pope has also made statements on the recent escalation of the refugee crisis. He has warned that this will only be the “tip of the iceberg,” citing the state of the current global economic system, which he suggested is “unjust” and is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee from poverty and war in search of a new beginning elsewhere.
While at the UN, Pope Francis attempted to have a discussion with President Putin, likely regarding the refugee crisis and instability in the Middle East. However, the Russian Mission to the UN stated that President Putin will arrive at the UN only two days after the beginning of the summit due to “private meetings.” The Pope held meetings with each member of the UN Security Council.