The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations was officially established on 6 April 1964 and has since provided an active role toward the advancement of peace and justice in the international community, serving as a vehicle for promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church. Increasing interest in the works of the Papal Mission at the United Nations underlined the need to spread greater awareness of the teachings of the Holy Father on important international questions of morality, development and human rights, in order to provoke discussion and formulate humanitarian action.
Due to the need for expanded humanitarian and conciliatory activities which go beyond the strictly diplomatic parameters of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, the Path to Peace Foundation was established in 1991, by Archbishop Renato R. Martino, the then Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Foundation, independent from, but in collaboration with the Holy See Mission, directs its activities primarily to the international stage of the United Nations. Its principal purpose is the spreading of the message of peace by which the Catholic Church, through the words and activities of the Pope and of the Holy See, strives to “guide our steps into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).
The Path to Peace Foundation, whose current president is Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, accomplishes this goal by disseminating information and documentation on statements and initiatives of the Holy Father, the Holy See and Catholic organizations aimed at building a world of justice, charity and peace. Likewise, it initiates programs such as conferences, seminars, lectures, etc., to study the social teachings of the Church, as well as promoting initiatives of a cultural nature, touching on the Christian heritage of art, music and the humanities. Furthermore, the Foundation fosters projects of a religious, conciliatory, humanitarian and charitable nature with a view to promoting fundamental human rights by calling attention to specific emergency needs arising in different parts of the world.
Specifically, some of the many programs, projects and services of the Path to Peace Foundation include the publication of the books Words That Matter: The Holy See in Multilateral: Diplomacy Anthology (1970-2000), a one volume collection nearly 800 pages long that covers topics that go from the right to religious freedom to social development, from the right to peace to the right to life, from the rights of women and children to the rights of refugees, and Pope John Paul II and the Challenges of Papal Diplomacy: Anthology (1978-2003), which is a compendium of the Holy Father's statements on diplomacy, collected from over 25 years of his pontificate, and include documents addressed to Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ambassadors, the Diplomatic Corps and various International Organizations. The Foundation has also sponsored high level seminars, held at the United Nations, on the Encyclical Letters of Pope John Paul II Sollicitudo rei socialis and Centesimus annus.
In 1996, a "Seminar on the Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the United Nations Organization," was held at U.N. Headquarters in New York as a follow-up to the Holy Father's October 1995 visit. The proceedings of the Seminar, as well as a volume on the Holy Father's historic visit have been published. In 2003, a symposium was held on the Encyclical Pacem in Terris by Pope John XXIII to commemorate its fortieth anniversary, which included the participation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of other eminent personalities.
In the fields of art and culture the Path to Peace Foundation has sponsored lectures at the United Nations on Christian archeology in the Holy Land, three presentations on the restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, two performances of Gregorian chant by selected choirs, and piano concerts. In calling attention to the poor and suffering the Foundation has been involved in emergency assistance and pastoral care for refugees and displaced persons in East Asia and the Middle East, donated seed money for self-help projects in hospices for lepers, and collaborated in health projects for African children affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as other important humanitarian efforts.
Clearly, the endeavors of the Path to Peace Foundation — like those of the Holy See Mission — are multi-faceted, ranging in scope from presentations on important cultural events to outreach to the poor and suffering throughout the world. It is unique in that its audience is international in character, which enables its work to have far-reaching effects. In a true sense, then, the world is its parish and the nations are its parishioners.
At a special event held each year the Path to Peace Foundation honors an individual whose life and work have dramatically affected the world community for the better. The first Path to Peace Award was bestowed in 1993 upon H.E. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary General of the United Nations. Subsequent honorees include the late H.M. King Baudouin I of Belgium, H.E. Mrs. Corazon Aquino, former president of the Philippines, H.E. Mr. Lech Walesa, former president of Poland; H.E. Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, former president of Nicaragua, H.E. Dr. Rafael Caldera, president of Venezuela, H.E. Mr. Carlos Menem, president of Argentina, H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations; H.S.H. Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, H.E. Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, and His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See.
In addition to the annual Path to Peace Award , the Foundation also recognizes persons from that magnificent legion of often unsung heroes, men and women in the most remote fields, who literally spend their lives with the only purpose and desire to be where the need is greater, where the wounds of humanity are festering and the pain unending. Beginning in 1994, the Foundation has also bestowed its Servitor Pacis (Servant of Peace) Award, stressing that without the cooperation and commitment of such courageous witnesses, no organization, government or even the Church, could possibly accomplish their ambitious goals of assisting those members of the human family in great need.