Pope Francis took center stage at the United Nations on Friday, imploring world leaders to protect the environment and the “vast ranks of the excluded,” condemning what he called a “culture of waste” that prevails around the globe.
“Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment,” Francis said.
The pope said that “the poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses” because “they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.”
Francis ticked off what he called the “baneful consequences” of social and economic exclusion, including human trafficking, the sexual exploitation of children and drug trafficking.
As he did in his historic address to the United States Congress on Thursday, Francis did not shy away from hot-button topics, addressing issues such as the migrant crisis and climate change. Francis spoke to world leaders and diplomats minutes before they were set to open the 70th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, an event that that will focus on issues like helping the poor and protecting the environment.
Francis said that the “vast ranks of the excluded” and the natural environment are closely interconnected because they are both threatened by “dominant political and economic relationships.”
Francis urged action on climate change, a theme he emphasized from the moment he landed on U.S. soil.
“Any harm done to the environment,” the pope declared Friday, “is harm done to humanity.”
Francis also called on the world body to protect the victims of war and conflict in places like the Middle East and Africa and the subsequent migrant crisis. The U.N. calls the flood of refugees from the Middle East now spreading into Europe the greatest humanitarian crisis of the century.
“Real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be,” the pope said.
On Thursday, Francis urged Congress to reject what he called a “mindset of hostility” toward refugees and undocumented immigrants.
Francis, who is on the second leg of his three-city American tour, spoke to the U.N. in Spanish, one of 14 speeches the Argentinean-born pope delivered in his native tongue while in the U.S. For the first time in United Nations history, the Vatican flag was raised at the U.N. to welcome the pontiff.
Before his address to the General Assembly, Francis spoke in English to about 400 U.N. staff gathered in the Secretariat lobby. He thanked them for making “possible many of the diplomatic, cultural, economic and political initiatives” of the world body.
After the U.N. address, the pontiff was to speak at an interfaith service at the National September 11 Museum and Memorial. He was expected to visit the reflecting pools and meet with relatives of those lost in the 9/11 attacks.
Francis will then visit an inner-city school in Harlem, where eager students were boning up on their papal history and knowledge of the first Jesuit pontiff. Nine-year-old Nicholas Marronaro is one of six lucky students from Our Lady Queen of Angels school who will greet Francis.
“I think he’s gonna be like an easy person to talk to,” Nicholas told CBS News. “Cause I also learned that he was the first [pope] to pose for a selfie, so I think he’s gonna be fun and easy to talk to.”
Later Friday, Francis will ride in his popemobile through Central Park in front of an estimated 80,000 people. The pope’s day will culminate with a Mass on Friday evening at Madison Square Garden.
The pope’s visit has sparked unprecedented security measures in New York. In addition to thousands of officers on the ground, the NYPD will also have an extra set of “eyes in the sky,” helicopters to monitor the pope’s every move with incredible detail.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told CBS News that the U.N. meeting’s confluence with the papal visit is the greatest test of his department’s preparedness.
“It is unprecedented in a sense of the security challenge to us,” Bratton said. “From a crowd management point of view, this is the largest we’ve ever been engaged in. Because of the sheer number of people we are going to have to protect,” Bratton said.
As he did in Washington, Francis received an enthusiastic welcome to New York on Thursday. Shortly after his jet, dubbed “Shepherd One,” landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Francis was greeted by cheering crowds and serenaded by Frank Sinatra’s iconic “New York, New York.”
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