By Christopher White, National Correspondent
NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary General António Guterres will receive the annual top prize from the Path to Peace Foundation – the major charitable organization established to support the work of the Holy See Mission to the U.N.
The annual award will be presented by Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the newly appointed apostolic nuncio to the U.N, at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan on May 20.
Guterres, a Portuguese Catholic, has held the post since 2017, having previously served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He will become the third U.N. Secretary General to receive the Path to Peace Award, following in the footsteps of Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993 and Kofi Annan in 2000.
Since 1993, the annual award has been bestowed to both individuals and organization in recognition of their commitment “to the development of peace in the national or international arenas.”
Past recipients include King Baudoin I of Belgium, Queen Sofia of Spain, President Carlos Saúl Menem of Argentina, President Lech Walesa of Poland, President Corazon C. Aquino of the Philippines, other world and Church leaders, and organizations defending persecuted Christians and trafficking victims.
“This year during the seventy-fifth Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the Path to Peace Foundation will honor the United Nations’ work for peace during the last 75 years and support its continuing efforts to bring an end to hostilities,” said Archbishop Caccia in a statement.
“The first pillar of the U.N. Charter, written as World War II horrors were concluding, is to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’ During the past 75 years, the United Nations has worked to make and build lasting peace, which must be achieved anew by every generation,” he added.
Guterres has been a regular presence at the annual prayer vigil for the opening of the General Assembly hosted by the Holy See Mission, which brings together diplomats and leading figures within the international community with New York’s religious leaders.
In 2018, he told attendees that the prayer service was both a bridge between each session of the General Assembly, but also a bridge between people of diverse backgrounds – “people of different faiths, nationalities, and traditions united in a common cause.”
Father Roger Landry, a priest who has been working at the Holy See Mission since 2015 and directs the Gala, praised Guterres for consistently making room in his schedule to receive different Vatican officials when they are in New York for related business.
“The synergistic relationship between Secretary-General Guterres and the Holy See was epitomized by the unprecedented joint video statement of Pope Francis and Guterres right before Christmas last year,” he told The Tablet.
“The joint statement itself, and the various issues raised in the statement, indicates not just a desire for cooperation but mutual commitment to working together to address many of the problems facing the world. There has been close cooperation, for example, on protecting our common home, care for refugees and migrants, fighting the scourge of human trafficking, and bringing peace to specific warn-torn areas,” Fr. Landry added.
Guterres is a trained engineer who worked as an assistant professor before joining his country’s Socialist Party in 1974. From 1995 to 2002, he served as Prime Minister of Portugal, before moving to the world of international diplomacy.
“We cannot and we must not look the other way in the face of injustice, inequality, the scandal of hunger in the world, of poverty, of children who die because they lack water, food and necessary healthcare,” Pope Francis said in his joint video message with the Secretary General last December.
Guterres then thanked the pontiff, heralding him as a “messenger for hope and humanity.”
“Your clear moral voice shines through – whether you are speaking out on the plight of the most vulnerable, including refugees and migrants, confronting poverty and inequalities, appealing for disarmament, building bridges between communities, and, of course, highlighting the climate emergency through your historic encyclical, Laudato si’, and so many other vital efforts,” he said at the time.