Putin and Pope hold talks at United Nations

  10 September 2015    Read: 684
Putin and Pope hold talks at United Nations
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could have an audience with Pope Francis on the sidelines of the development summit meeting here this month
According to diplomatic protocol, the pope is to hold a bilateral meeting with the country that presides over the United Nations Security Council and only with its head of state. In September, that is Russia. Hence, Mr. Putin.

The pope is scheduled to speak on the morning of Friday, Sept. 25, when he will address world leaders before the official opening of the development meeting. Mr. Putin is scheduled to address the group two days later.

The Russian mission said Wednesday that Mr. Putin was not expected to arrive as early as Sept. 25. That appeared to make the prospect of a meeting with the pope unlikely.

The Vatican’s top diplomat here, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, said the pope would speak to the General Assembly in Spanish and address a range of issues, including terrorism, climate change, poverty and the movement of refugees and migrants across the world.

“There are so many big themes, and he has only 30 minutes to talk,” Archbishop Auza, the permanent representative of the Holy See, told reporters at the mission’s Midtown headquarters in New York.

As a measure of the significance of the pope’s address, it was the first news conference organized by the mission, officials said. Pope Francis’ predecessors have addressed the General Assembly four times since the inception of the United Nations. The last was Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

The Vatican has no plans to fly its flag in front of United Nations headquarters when the pope arrives, even though the General Assembly is expected to pass a resolution this week allowing nonmember observer states, including the Holy See, to do so.

Palestine is the only other nonmember observer state at the United Nations. The Palestinians and their supporters have sponsored the resolution on the flag. The Holy See, which recognizes Palestinian statehood, will not co-sponsor it, Archbishop Auza said in response to a question, nor will the Vatican flag be raised for the pope’s visit. “Absolutely not,” he said. “We have no intention of doing that.”

The decision signals the Vatican’s effort to remain neutral on an issue as polarizing as the Middle East conflict.

On other issues, Pope Francis is not expected to be neutral. He has been outspoken on the need to reduce income inequality in the world and for the world’s rich countries, particularly Europe, to welcome many more economic migrants and refugees. He is scheduled to meet with immigrants on his first visit to the United States, and he is likely to make his views known when he speaks to lawmakers in Washington and especially when he addresses Roman Catholic families in Philadelphia, unfettered by what Archbishop Auza called “protocol constraints.”

The archbishop declined to offer details on what the pope would say, except that he would emphasize the message that “we should consider these people as people like us.”

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