If there’s one word that comes to mind when one hears the name Pope Francis, that word is “rebel.” Since 2013–when he was elected Pope of The Roman Catholic Church–he has amazed the world with his risky and unexpected approaches to the whole leadership and establishment of the institution. Pope Francis has been a first in the papacy in so many different ways it’s hard to even keep count. From the first Latin American and Jesuit Pope, to the first one to ride public transportation. Being named person of the year of 2013 by Time magazine and the 4th most powerful person by Forbes two years in a row, Francis’ influence in the world’s politics, religion, culture and even science has proven to be impossible to ignore.
But I have to ask: what has Pope Francis done to make the public pose this seemingly weird question of him being more influential on peacemaking than the UN ? It’s undeniable that he has served as an extraordinary advocate for peace, human rights, and diplomacy since the beginning of his term as pope. Evidently, for these reasons people have created such question as a form of contrast between the efficiency of both the United Nations and what he represents as a public figure.
For instance, since his visit to Cuba in September 2015 and his later visit to the United States, both nations have reestablished diplomatic ties with one another. The American countries have now opened embassies, reached economic settlements and even held personal meetings and phone calls. Also, in his encyclical released last year, Pope Francis calls for humanity (not only Catholics) to acknowledge and act on the concern that is the environment by “entering a dialogue with all the people about our common home”. Pope Francis’ activism does not end there, the pontiff has also worked on global concerns such as the Middle East crisis, women and homosexual rights, abortion, migration, capitalism, sexual abuse, and divorce.
On the other hand, the United Nations has been the only non-profit organization that has ever come close to dealing with all the injustices and conflicts of the modern world. Analyzing the growth it has achieved since its creation in 1945, it is possible to see how the influence and of this NGO has increased and is currently in its way to greatly change many of the problems that the international community is facing nowadays. Case in point, the UN success with world hunger programs ( The World Food Program, The Food and Agriculture Organization and emergency aid management ), the fight against Health issues ( epidemics, polio, HIV, child mortality, etc ), and hundreds of other efforts organized by this institution.
However, it is true that the actual effectiveness of the UN has at a general level is very debatable. Indeed, there are many inside problems in the United Nations that cause this organism to somehow fail on some of its attempts to make the world a better place. Obstacles like corruption, to mention one example, can definitely act as a setback for the initial goals that the entity has established for itself. Furthermore, the course of action of the United Nations is greatly tied and limited by the components of international law, restricting its overall power over issues affecting the world.
Now, is it true that the Pope has done more for worldwide peace so far in his time on the papacy than the UN in its whole history? The answer is that we are talking about two different things. Pope Francis is an important figure of today’s world issues, but he is still one man while the United Nations is a 70-year-old organization integrated by 194 states . It would be a mistake to compare the two situations as if they were even similar.
[Photo credit: George Martell/Pilot New Media]
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