Pope praises former U.N. secretary-general's generous service to world

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Segar, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis praised the
“generous service” of the former secretary-general of the United
Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and offered his condolences and prayers in the
wake of his death.

“Saddened to learn” of Boutros-Ghali’s death, the
pope extended his “heartfelt condolences” to Ban Ki-moon, the current
head of the United Nations, with a telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the
Vatican’s secretary of state. The Vatican released a copy of the telegram Feb.
17, one day after Boutros-Ghali died in an Egyptian hospital after being
admitted days earlier for a broken leg. He was 93.

Recalling Boutros-Ghali’s “generous service to his
country and to the international community, His Holiness offers the assurance
of his prayers for the late secretary-general’s eternal rest, and he invokes
the divine blessings of peace and strength upon the members of his family and
all who mourn his loss,” the telegram said.

Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian, was the first Arab and the
first African to be U.N. secretary-general. He was a Christian — Coptic
Orthodox — from a Muslim country, and his wife was Jewish.

As Egyptian foreign minister, Boutros-Ghali was known as one
of the architects of the Camp David Peace Accords.

Boutro-Ghali met with Vatican officials on multiple
occasions, first as Egyptian foreign minister, then as U.N. secretary-general, 1992-1996. His term in office
included the Rwandan genocide, the international population development
conference, and the U.S., French and British bombing of Iraq under President
George H.W. Bush.

In 1993, he received the first Path to Peace Award, presented
annually by the Path to Peace Foundation, which works in conjunction with the
Holy See Observer Mission to the United Nations. The award is presented to an
individual in recognition of his or her commitment to the development of peace
in the national and international arenas.

In 1994, then-Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican foreign
minister, said he had had two discussions with Boutros-Ghali about the pastoral
care of U.N. peacekeepers. He said the “fundamental right of every soldier
to spiritual assistance” had to be spelled out in the guidelines for U.N.
peacekeepers.

As secretary-general opening the 1994
International Conference on Population and Development, he said he hoped
participants would not lose time in disputes over terminology. He said that no
single philosophical, moral or spiritual vision can be imposed on humanity.

Boutros-Ghali was born in Cairo Nov. 14, 1922, and studied
in Cairo, Paris and the United States. He taught international law and headed
the politics department at Cairo University. He also served as a journalist and
said learning that writing style “helped me come out of the university’s
ivory tower.”

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