Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Saturday, 19 April 2008 01:04 UK

Pope urges global unity on crises

Pope Benedict XVI stands with Rabbi Arthur Schneier during his visit to the Park East Synagogue, New York, on 18 Friday 2008
Pope Benedict XVI visited a synagogue in Manhattan's Upper East Side

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has told the UN in New York that member states should solve the world's crises together.

Benedict XVI, the third pope to address the UN, said the world was still subject to "the decisions of a few", without naming countries.

He urged states to protect their people from "grave and sustained" human rights abuses or face outside intervention.

The Pope later visited a synagogue as part of his six-day US tour.

Pope Benedict visited Park East synagogue, just hours before the start of the Jewish Passover, becoming the first leader of the Roman Catholic church to visit a Jewish place of worship in the US.

His agenda in New York, his last stop before returning to Rome, also includes visiting Ground Zero and celebrating Mass at Yankee Stadium.

'Decisions of a few'

The UN speech was rather theoretical, reports the BBC's David Willey, who is travelling with the Pope during his visit, with the pontiff referring to no countries by name.

Pope Benedict XVI speaking to the UN General Assembly

"Every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights," the Pope said.

"If states are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments."

The real harm, he said, came from indifference or non-intervention.

Rules, the Pope argued, did not limit freedom but promoted it when they prohibited conduct and actions against the common good.

Multilateral consensus, he said, was "in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action".

A lot of the time it seems the UN just stands there and tuts, but does nothing else.
Gen, Durham

Talking about war, the pontiff called for "a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue".

Attention and encouragement should be given to "even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation".

In a separate speech to UN staff, Pope Benedict praised their work, saying their dedication was never sufficiently acknowledged.

Addressing abuse

Pope Benedict later paid a visit to the Park East synagogue, in Manhattan's Upper East Side, where he was met by chief rabbi Arthur Schneier.

The pontiff said the Jewish community made "a valuable contribution" to life in New York city.

"And I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighbourhood," he added.

15 Apr: Arrived at Andrews Air Force Base
16 Apr: White House luncheon; talks with Mr Bush. Meeting with US bishops and prayer service in Washington (evening)
17 Apr: Washington Mass; addressed Catholic University; interfaith meeting
18 Apr: Addresses UN
19 Apr: New York Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral
20 Apr: Ground Zero visit; Yankee Stadium Mass

Pope Benedict then attended an evening ecumenical service with Protestant and Orthodox clergy at St Joseph's church in Manhattan.

Celebrating open-air Mass at the Nationals stadium in Washington DC on Thursday, the Pope spoke of the sexual abuse of children by US Catholic clergy before talking privately to a group of people who had been abused by priests.

The Pope, who was addressing 40,000 people, told the victims he would pray for them and their families.

He spent 25 minutes in individual meetings with half a dozen victims, some of whom were in tears during the encounters, a spokesman said.

During the open-air Mass, the pontiff said: "No words of mine can describe the pain and the harm inflicted by the sexual abuse of minors."

Efforts to protect children had to continue, he said.

Our correspondent says that for the third time in as many days, the pontiff has done what many Catholics have been asking for years.

He has condemned and publicly accepted full responsibility for the crimes of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in the US.

On Wednesday, the pontiff met President George W Bush at the White House.

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