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What is the encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’?

JOHN XXIII

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Philip Kosloski - published on 04/10/23

Pacem in Terris was promulgated on April 11, 1963, by St. John XXIII.

Pacem in Terris was one of the most significant encyclicals written by St. John XXIII during his pontificate. It was a profound document that touched on the dignity of the human person and the proper ordering of civil affairs.

St. John XXIII begins his encyclical by writing, “Peace on Earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.”

He then proclaims the primary purpose of his encyclical, explaining how the dignity of the human person entails certain rights and duties.

Any well-regulated and productive association of men in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual man is truly a person. His is a nature, that is, endowed with intelligence and free will. As such he has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable. 

It is a powerful encyclical that is meant to be a primary source of inspiration for all civil affairs.

St. John XXIII ends his encyclical appealing to Jesus, the “Prince of Peace.”

Let us, then, pray with all fervor for this peace which our divine Redeemer came to bring us. May He banish from the souls of men whatever might endanger peace. May He transform all men into witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love. May He illumine with His light the minds of rulers, so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may also guarantee them the fairest gift of peace.

Finally, may Christ inflame the desires of all men to break through the barriers which divide them, to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another, and to pardon those who have done them wrong. Through His power and inspiration may all peoples welcome each other to their hearts as brothers, and may the peace they long for ever flower and ever reign among them.

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