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CU Student Andres Polanco
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Photo courtesy Holy See Mission 

Caldwell University theology alumnus Andrės Polanco spent the spring semester interning at the Holy See Mission at the United Nations in New York which aims to protect the rights of all men and women, and freedom for every believer within the context of Catholic social teaching. His work involved covering meetings at which diplomats debated issues of peace, justice, and human dignity, compiling reports, and learning about diplomacy at the U.N. and the workings of the Holy See Mission.

“The interns are given a great deal of responsibility including compiling reports of discussions where groups—that are often in conflict with each other—bring forward their agendas and concerns,” said Polanco, a graduate student in Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.       

As a member of the peace and security team, Polanco reported on meetings that focused on international security which included the Security Council, the Disarmament Commission and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. He covered special discussions on peace-building and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons within the context of international security. “One of my recent reports involved the use of force in international law—what constitutes legitimate self-defense and what constitutes overstepping boundaries. Another recent report centered around food insecurity in Haiti. I love this work,” said Polanco,  who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology with a minor in philosophy from Caldwell. Another highlight of his experience was attending the Security Council’s in-person meeting in the Security Council Chamber which focused on the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Somalia. 

Polanco has found himself drawing on what he learned in his theology and philosophy classes at Caldwell, in particular how to consider the moral implications of proposals from different angles. “Critical thinking, and a clear understanding and application of the principles of Catholic social teaching, are skills I learned there that continue to pay dividends.” The  reports he and the other interns wrote were scrutinized and then sent to the Secretariat of State of the Holy See in the Vatican.  

Polanco has been impressed with the competence and commitment of the diplomatic staff of the Holy See Mission. “Most Catholics are not aware of the work of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N. or of its impact in influencing U.N. resolutions.” He thinks young Catholics would be delighted to know that in every cycle eight interns help to ensure the perspective of youth in the Holy See’s work.  

Father Roger Landry, director of the fellowship and internship programs at the Permanent Observer Mission, said the mission is very grateful for the service of so many competent interns like Polanco. Since 2015, the mission has had 125 interns from 30 countries, “which makes our internship program a little bit of a microcosm not only of the Catholic Church but of the United Nations.” The mission is very proud of the interns, many of whom are the envy of other delegations. “They are proof that the Catholic Church is young, vibrant, inspiring and committed long term to the love of neighbor in all the ways under discussion at the U.N.,” said Father Landry. 

A native of Columbia, Polanco would like to serve his country in a diplomatic capacity. The workings of the United Nations interest him too. “If I would be able to combine these two aspirations, it would be a dream come true.” 

At the root of his passion is the Gospel which he says “calls us to serve our fellow men and women.” He points to Scripture where Jesus tells us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The internship allowed Polanco to combine his faith with his desire to safeguard human dignity in the public square. He asks:  “Can there be any better way to live out the Gospel message than by serving with the Church at an organization that dedicates itself to world peace?”