GENEVA, Switzerland – Pope Francis characterized his June 21st day-trip to Geneva as an “ecumenical pilgrimage,” not a political trip, and for this reason he did not visit the UN and other international organizations in Geneva.
However, the Holy See’s observer to those international organization notes that “ecumenical institutions are considered a part of what we call ‘Geneva international,’ although the World Council of Churches is not an international organization but mostly a foundation under Swiss law.”
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic has served as the Holy See’s head of mission in Geneva since February 2016, after serving as nuncio to Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
Speaking with CNA, Jurkovic underscored the importance of the Holy See’s presence at the international institutions headquartered in Geneva, noting that next year is the hundredth anniversary of the International Labour Organization. Jurkovic also said there is hope that Francis will make a second voyage to Geneva, this time to meet with the international organizations based there.
The archbishop noted that the pope’s visit was “an event of great public exposure, and so obviously it had an impact not only on international organizations, but also on the life of the city itself.”
Although the pope’s visit was not a political visit, Jurkovic told CNA that the pope’s “visit was perceived by everyone, and many ambassadors from countries of Northern Europe showed their appreciation for Pope Francis’s initiative.”
Jurkovic also underscored that “it is widely understood that the ‘religious issue’ is garnering importance within the international organizations,” also because of the “re-awakening of the Muslim world that is now penetrating in traditionally indifferent places.”
The archbishop added that Francis brought to Geneva “the confirmation of his commitment for peace, of the defense of the human dignity and his personal commitment for migrants and refugees, for the care of our common home and for many other issues discussed at an international level.”
The Holy See’s Mission in Geneva is also responsible for handling “formal consultations” for the Global Compact on Refugees, while negotiations for the Global Compact on Migrants take place at the UN headquarters in New York.
Jurkovic said that “the Holy See’s priorities, in both those processes, are inspired by the centrality of people and the reaffirmation of the inviolability of human life and of everyone’s human rights.”
The Holy See’s office in Geneva also represents the Church at the International Labour Organization. Jurkovic stressed that the Holy See “has always followed with a particular interest the ILO’s operation, and Blessed Paul VI was in Geneva for the ILO’s 50th anniversary. Many hope for a papal visit for the 100th anniversary.”
A papal visit to the Geneva-based international organization would be special, he said, because labor’s role in changing social and economic dynamics is becoming a topic of pressing international concern.
Speaking in particular of the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, Jurkovic said that “pontifical diplomacy proposes to the United Nations a human being as God’s image,” and that “in a world scenario where the human person is subjected to ideological and economic systems,” the Holy See reaffirms that “human dignity must be respected.”
He said that the Holy See is focused on growing economic inequalities, and that the Holy See’s diplomatic activity is not focused on the protection of its own rights, but “on the needs of the society of men and of all people.”
The papal nuncio also lamented that public discourse on globalization is divided into a “series of special interests and ideological positions,” noting that globalization is “a human phenomenon, connected to the practice of freedom and responsibility by everyone,” and so the challenges of globalization are better addressed “using a shared ethical code.”
The Church “announces that all men are called by God to form one family, where solidarity holds relations among people,” and this means as a consequence that “political communities are called to serve the common good.”
The “Holy See’s call for solidarity is not the outcome of a vague sentimentalism. It is rather the expression of a policy of sharing of responsibilities, plus a criterion of action to coordinate resources for the common good,” Jurkovic concluded.