For a time Miguel was not granted a visa to come to the U.S. because he was considered a "terrorist" by some in Washington. Most of the times he wanted to come to the States was to give retreats, like to Pax Christi or at the behest of Bishop Gumbleton, yet he never knew if he'd be admitted to the U.S. or not. His ten years on the do-not-fly list corresponded with some health setbacks, notably bouts of vertigo which he feared would prevent him from exercising his U.N. duties.
Miguel said these issues prevented him from visiting Maryknoll as often as he'd wanted to in the past. But he said, "There was never a day that went that I didn't give thanks to God for bringing me to Maryknoll." He asked God and the Blessed Mother to give him the strength and grace to fulfill his office. He accepted the presidency as an opportunity to "speak on behalf of the dispossessed."
Three weeks ago Fidel Castro asked Miguel if he "believed in miracles." Miguel replied, "No, I don't believe in miracles. I rely on them."
The president of the assembly outranks the Secretary General in protocol with the status of head of state. The president serves for one year; the S.G. for five years.
He told the U.N. in his final speech that it was "beyond reform." It must be rebuilt from scratch. Few member nations today think anything good can come of the U.N.
While the U.N. does an immense number of good things, it was created to prevent the recurrence of war and to help eradicate hunger and poverty. Miguel says on these two issues the U.N. has failed.
Miguel was happy to report the demise of the "Project New American Century", brainchild of Paul Wolfowitz (architect of the Iraq war) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This gave rise to the disasterous "preventive war" (not pre-emptive) foreign policy of Pres. George W. Bush, which was in effect when Miguel began his presidency of the assembly.
Miguel worked with Noam Chomsky at M.I.T. to produce a new way to deal with international finances just as the financial crisis rocked the world. He invited top economists from around the world to discuss the situation before the General Assembly and to inject new passion into that world body. He overcame objections that this would be a breach of protocol since only world leaders or ambassadors speak to the Assembly. He had Assembly members respond to the panel of experts. When Great Britain and other countries objected to this breach in protocol, Miguel responded, "I do not ask permission to defend the rights of the poor to life."
Initailly the Vatican opposed Miguel's candidacy, even coming to Maryknoll to pressure then Super G John Sivalon. Despite this formal opposition and campaigning against him, Miguel was elected. Miguel says he holds no grudge against the nuncio because he was only doing what he thought was right.
He admires the nuncio for being gracious enough to come and wish him well following his successful election. Migliori told D'Escoto, "The Holy Father is very proud that 'one of us' (i.e. a fellow priest) is giving these speeches (at the U.N.)." The pope also sent a message through the nuncio blessing MIguel and saying of his intention to pray for him and bless him and the financial meeting during the pope's June 14th public Angelus at St. Peter's.
Last month Cardinal Migliori invited Father General and the President of the Maryknoll Sisters to a special Mass of Thanksgiving at the nunciature in New York City as Miguel finished his tenure. He even invited Miguel to preach.
The nuncio said he was going to speak to the pope about Miguel's suspension, now in its 30th year, which is unprecedented and, in Miguel's opinion, a violation of canon law. In his homily, Miguel said nothing could have been a more painful punishment for him.
Miguel ended by telling our community: "Saying Mass or attending Mass is not as important as living the Mass, that is, living a life of risk, putting our life on the line for our brothers and sisters around the world."