ROME, ITALY — United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose’ Graziano da Silva attended the inaugural Mass for Pope Francis at the Vatican on March 19, saying the United Nations would look to Pope Francis as a “friend of the poor” to support the fight against hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty.

Graziano da Silva was at the ceremony on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, joining other dignitaries and crowds of worshippers gathered in and around St. Peter’s Square for the event. 

“We look to Pope Francis to champion the rights and needs of the most vulnerable children, women and men everywhere,” said Graziano da Silva. He noted that Pope Francis chose the name of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was known as a friend to the poor. 

“The support of the Vatican and other religions is indispensable in our bid to eradicate hunger, build a sustainable future, and improve the lives of the most vulnerable among us. These efforts not only make political and economic sense, but morally they are also the right thing to do,” said Graziano da Silva. 

Following the ceremony, Graziano da Silva greeted Pope Francis and lauded his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, for his support in the fight against hunger and, in particular, for having tried to discourage food price volatility by urging action against food price speculation on commodity markets. 

“Pope Francis reassured me that he would continue the Vatican’s vocal support for pro-poor and anti-hunger action, and that he intended to follow up on our initial conversation to discuss ways to take this forward,” the Director-General said.