New York

At the United Nations: The Experience of Humanity

And so, here I finally am! Soon, in just a few days, I will begin my fall internship with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City.

I left Minnesota early Friday morning and flew into LaGuardia airport. From there, I met up with one of four other interns and we caught a taxi into Hoboken, New Jersey. Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Hoboken, west of Manhattan right across the Hudson River, is where we will be staying. The Holy See Mission itself is located on the east side of Midtown Manhattan and we’ll commute into town everyday by subway. As you can imagine, we’ve spent the weekend settling in and exploring the area.

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(Clockwise starting at the top left: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Parish Chapel, Central Park, Grand Central Station)

Just exactly what is the Holy See, you may ask? “Holy See” in Latin is Sancta Sedes, which means Holy Chair. In ancient times, this referred to the seat of the bishop in cities that were important in the early Church (e.g., the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria). Most preeminent among them, of course, was the church in Rome founded by Sts. Peter and Paul. According to the New Catholic Enyclopedia, in the canonical and diplomatic sense, the term is “synonymous with ‘Apostolic See’, ‘Holy Apostolic See’, ‘Roman Church’, ‘Roman Curia.’”

Over the course of many centuries, the Holy See gradually came to refer to the composite of the juridical, administrative, and governmental structure of the worldwide Catholic Church. This is distinct from the Vatican City State, which was created in 1929, administers the properties of the Holy See, and is internationally recognized as a sovereign entity. The early Church grew into one of the first supranational institutions in the world and continues that same work to this day.

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The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN

Although I am awaiting my assignments, some of my responsibilities at the UN will include monitoring actions undertaken by various committees and representing the Holy See in meetings and official gatherings. This is very exciting for me as not only a law student but also as a Catholic. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his 2008 address to the United Nations General Assembly, reminded us why our engagement with the UN is important:

The United Nations remains a privileged setting in which the Church is committed to contributing her experience “of humanity”, developed over the centuries among peoples of every race and culture, and placing it at the disposal of all members of the international community.

One need not go too far back into history and only look at two world wars in the 20th century, among other examples, to see why the UN’s creation was needed so urgently. Faulty conceptions of social organization and impoverished human anthropologies did much to abuse human rights and the dignity of the person.

Every new generation of Christians, along with other persons of good will, must make its own contribution, renew, and take up the mantle again if we are, the Pope Emeritus says, to “sustain humanity’s hope for a better world and…create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation, and guarantee of rights for future generations.” To be able to even catch a glimpse of these efforts, to be able to serve in whatever small way that I can, it will be well worth it.

Finally, let me say that I am honored, humbled, and grateful for this opportunity. I am especially indebted to His Excellency, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Apostolic Nuncio, the University of St. Thomas, the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and, last but not least, to my friends and family also for all their support and encouragement. You bless me! Thank you for joining Joseph and me on the journey. Please pray for us and we shall continue to pray for you.

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