From Vatican Information Service, a report on the pope's comments
today on Pope John XXIII's landmark encyclical, "Pacem in Terris":
“Looking at our current situation, I
wonder if we have learnt the lessons of 'Pacem in terris'. I ask
myself whether the words 'justice' and 'solidarity' exist only in our
dictionary, or if we indeed all work towards making them a reality”,
said the Pope, in an address to participants in the meeting promoted
by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” to commemorate
fifty years since the publication of the encyclical of the future
saint John XXIII.
in terris” (“Peace on earth”), as Francis noted, was written in
the most critical period of the Cold War, when humanity feared
finding itself at the brink of a worldwide atomic conflict due to the
protracted confrontation between the two superpowers, the United
States and the Soviet Union. With this encyclical, John XXIII
launched a dramatic appeal for peace to world leaders. “It was a
cry to mankind, but also a plea to Heaven. The dialogue that opened,
with some difficulty, between the two great opposing blocs led them
to overcome this phase during the pontificate of the other blessed
pope, John Paul II, and to open up space for freedom and dialogue.
The seeds of peace sown by blessed John XXIII bore fruit but, despite
the fall of walls and barriers, the world continues to hunger for
peace and the appeal made in 'Pacem in terris' retains a powerful
XXIII's encyclical confirms that the foundation for building peace
consists in “the divine origin of the human being, of society and
authority, which requires individuals, families, the various social
groups and States to live in relations based on justice and
solidarity. It is therefore the task of all men to build peace,
following Jesus Christ's example, and by two routes: the promotion
and practice of justice … and by contributing … to full human
development, according to the logic of solidarity”.
consequence of looking to the divine origin of the person, of society
and of authority itself is none other than “the value of the
person, the dignity of each human being, always to be promoted,
respected and protected. And as blessed John XXIII states, these are
not only the principal civil and political rights to be guaranteed;
every person should also be granted effective access to essential
means of subsistence: food, water, shelter, healthcare, education and
the possibility of forming and supporting a family. These aims should
be an absolute priority for national and international action, and
their fulfilment sets the parameters by which such action may be
judged. Lasting peace for all depends on this”.
the encyclical states objectives and elements that are now form part
of our way of thinking”, stated the Pope, “but it remains to be
asked: do they correspond to reality? Fifty years on, do they find
confirmation in the development of our societies?”.
in terris' does not intend to state that it is the Church's task to
give concrete directions on themes that, in their complexity, should
be left open to free discussion. On political, economic and social
matters there is not the dogma to indicate practical solutions, but
rather to favour dialogue, listening, patience, respect for others,
sincerity and also willingness to revise one's opinion. The basic aim
of John XXIII's call for peace in 1962 was to orientate international
debate according to these virtues”.
fundamental principles of the encyclical may be applied to a series
of new current situations, including those under analysis in these
days by the participants in the meeting organised by the Pontifical
Council “Justice and Peace”: education, the influence of mass
media communication, access to the earth's resources, the application
of the results of biological research, the arms race, and national
and international security measures. “The worldwide economic
crisis, which is a serious symptom of the lack of respect for man and
for the truth with which decisions have been made by governments and
by citizens, provides us with clear evidence. 'Pacem in terris'
traces a direct line from the peace that is to be constructed in the
heart of mankind to a rethinking of our model of development and
action at all levels, in order that our world become a world of
peace. I wonder”, concluded Francis, “if we are ready to accept
the end of the meeting, the Pope spoke about the tragic shipwreck
this morning near the Italian island of Lampedusa. The stricken boat
was carrying over three hundred immigrants, of whom more than 90 lost
their lives and approximately 250 are still missing.
of peace, speaking of the inhuman worldwide economic crisis, which is
a serious symptom of the lack of respect for mankind, I cannot
neglect to mention with great suffering the many victims of yet
another tragic shipwreck today in the sea of Lampedusa. The word
shame springs to mind. Shame! Let us pray together for those who have
lost their lives men, women, children, for their families and for
all refugees. Let us unite our strength in order that there be no
more tragedies of this type! Only decisive collaboration by all of us
can help to prevent this”.
For a great introduction and overview of "Pacem in Terris" and its
subsequent influence, see J.J. Zeilger's June 2013 article for CWR, "Pacem in terris at 50". Zeigler writes:
Blessed John’s encyclical has
exercised a profound impact on subsequent Catholic teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the encyclical in
its teaching on conversion and society (no. 1886) and authority (nos. 1897 and
1903) and cites the encyclical in its teaching on respect for the human person
(no. 1930). The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the
Church (2004) quotes the encyclical 16 times and offers 34
additional citations. Each social encyclical written after Pacem in
Terris has cited it.
In 2003, Blessed John Paul II
referred to the 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris at
least nine times, offering his most extensive reflections in his Messages for the
World Day of Peace and World
Communication Day. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, then the Vatican’s chief
representative at the United Nations, also delivered an
address on the encyclical that year.
Pope Benedict XVI described Pacem in Terris as an “immortal encyclical” in a 2006
Angelus address and referred to it at least five times during the last year of
his pontificate. Likewise, Pope Francis mentioned the encyclical in an address
to the Papal Foundation delivered the day of its 50th anniversary. ...
In Pacem in
Terris, Blessed John cited Sacred Scripture, St. Augustine, St.
Thomas Aquinas, and Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII. CWR asked
scholars and other Christian leaders who have reflected on the encyclical to
discuss the most important ways in which the encyclical developed the tradition
of Catholic social teaching in which it is rooted.
George Weigel said that “by applying
the Augustinian concept of peace-as-order to contemporary conditions, Pacem in Terris stretched the classic Catholic moral
tradition’s thinking about statecraft while maintaining the tradition’s intellectual
tether to its roots.”
“Pope John taught that a just and peaceful human
society is ‘primarily a spiritual reality,’” observed Bishop Pates. “He
declared that a truly human society consists of ‘spiritual values which exert a
guiding influence on culture, economics, social institutions, political
movements’ (no. 36). This spiritual insight advanced the tradition at the same
time that it returned us to the central Gospel mandate of being peacemakers.
Ultimately, peace is about loveGod’s love. In the words of Blessed Pope John,
it is a spiritual call to have love, not fear’ guide the relationships among
individuals and even nations (no. 129).”
“As an encyclical it drew on all the
usual sources,” said Lord Alton, “but its sense of urgency and its
accessibility set the tone for the teaching documents which have followed,
perhaps especially the encyclicals of John Paul II.”
Read the entire article.