2013-10-31 Vatican - The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has given a major address to mark the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in Terris, written by Blessed Pope John XXIII. Cardinal Peter Turkson was speaking at the Jerusalem campus of the Salesian Pontifical University. The full text of the address is below

Pacem in Terris: Forming Ministers and Peace-Builders
Salesian Pontifical University, Jerusalem, 31 October 2013


On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it is an honour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope John’s historic encyclical Pacem in Terris and thereby mark the Dies Academicus 2013-2014 of the Salesian Pontifical University in Jerusalem.

In this presentation I intend to give a sense of the changing world landscape to which the message of peace must ever be made relevant. This began, not fifty years ago, but two thousand, when the angels sang “Peace on earth” at Christ’s birth! After appreciating the background, we will recall the thinking of twentieth-century Popes on peace, culminating in the vital intervention of John XXIII during the Cuban missile crisis and then the promulgation of Pacem in Terris. We will take time to look at the Encyclical in some detail, especially its core message rooted in human dignity, relationship and fraternity. I will then draw out suggestions for tertiary education, priestly formation and peace-building. Finally I will remind you of the encouragement towards peace offered by Pope Francis, whom we see faithfully continuing the legacy of Pacem in Terris in our time.

Having spent a very happy 1977 here in Jerusalem as a student of the Biblicum, I would of course very much like to translate Pacem in Terris into “peace in the Holy Land”. But rather than address this topic of great interest during my remarks, let us make it a point of our discussion afterwards.


In order to be ever relevant, the Pacem in Terris must be addressed to a changing world. To appreciate the encyclical's relevance, we may compare the Cold War of 1963 to the geo-politics of 2013. Before I turn to the 1960s, I wish to point out that the Holy See has worked for decades with other governments to promote incremental disarmament and the banning of all nuclear weapons. For instance, in 2012 the Holy See participated in the First Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Church’s position was that: “It cannot be considered morally sufficient to draw down the stocks of superfluous nuclear weapons while modernizing nuclear arsenals and investing vast sums to insure their future production and maintenance. The current course will ensure the perpetuation of these weapons indefinitely.”

Moreover, the Holy See is a founding Member State of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 2012, at its 56th General Conference, the Holy See stated, inter alia, that “Every step on the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda must be built on the principles of the preeminent and inherent value of human dignity and the centrality of the human person, which constitute the basis of international humanitarian law.” This focus on the human person and human dignity, as we shall see shortly, lies at the core of our topic today.

Let us understand the half-century context of the Encyclical: One of the great lessons, if not the greatest lesson, that humanity learnt, especially, from the two world wars (1914-1918, 1939-1945), was that safeguarding the well-being and interest of humanity, and especially peace, is the task of all. Thus, after the First World War, the League of Nations was developed as a fruit of the Paris Conference which ended that war. It was the first international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It sought, as stated in its Covenant, to prevent wars through collective security and disarmament, and to settle international disputes through political means: negotiation and arbitration.

Though the League’s initiative reflected humanity’s sense of brotherhood and its desire for peace, it failed to safeguard the peace or prevent World War II. But the shared desire for peace and human flourishing once again recovered, as the world community found the energy from within itself to step over its betrayal to form the United Nations (1945). Inheriting most of the ideals and values of the League of Nations, the United Nations aimed to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue, cooperation in international law, security, economic development, social progress and human rights.

But the building-block of nation has persistently been a stumbling-block. The humanly established order does not inherently promote peace, because nations compete. Even when these nations resolve to seek peace via an arrangement like the League of Nations or the United Nations, the starting point of nation scuttles the enterprise: ultimately, a nation will pursue its interests above those of any set of nations, let alone of all nations. The sovereign nation considers the particular good of its own constituent citizenry – or rather, of its elite – to be a higher value than the common good of all. Nations are prone to the faults that the Apostle James identified when he asked: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (Jm 4, 1-3).

And so the Encyclical Pacem in Terris was issued at a moment when another and a more devastating war – that is, a nuclear disaster – loomed ominously overhead. For in the 1960s, not yet two decades after the conclusion of the Second World War, and despite the pledged commitments of Nations to stop wars and to maintain world peace, the human family stood again at the brink of international war. Rival political ideologies had more or less forced the nations of the world into opposed political blocks that competed desperately for supremacy.

This division found a concrete expression in the erection of the Berlin Wall (1961); and it was a division between the East of the Soviet Bloc and the West of NATO nations. The following year (1962) Soviet nuclear missile sites were constructed in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt by the United States; and the United States responded with an air and sea blockade to prevent the Soviet nuclear weapons from arriving in Cuba. The USA demanded that the Soviet Union dismantle the missile bases and take back all weapons.

Tension escalated further when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote to the United States' President John Kennedy that “The Soviet government considers the violation of the freedom of navigation in international waters and air space to constitute an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war.” The Cuban Missile Crisis was the moment when the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict. It showed how precarious world order can be in the face of opposed militarization of political ideologies. Was humanity again going to betray its desire for security and peace? Would humanity bear out Thomas Hobbes’s observation of man as a wolf to man?

In the rest of the world too, especially in Africa, the tension and rivalry between the cold War nations were. keenly felt. Speaking of 1963, it was indeed accurate for Monsignor Pavan, the material writer of the encyclical of which Pope John XXIII is the real author, to point to a world-changing shift in human status: “Human beings -- men and women-- have already acquired , or in the process of acquiring, their personal dignity.” Ghana had gained independence in 1957; but the 1960s were the years of independence struggle for several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Just recall the close to fifteen African countries which celebrated fiftieth anniversaries of independence between 2010 and 2011. Caught in the rivalry of the Cold War powers for supremacy and extension of their domain of influence, the perceived affiliations of emerging independent African nations led to the fuelling of internal conflicts, intrigues, assassinations of aspiring and emerging leadership-candidates and coup d’états. The first coup d’état of Ghana (1966), though independent since 1957, was intimately related with the struggle of the cold War powers to extend their own spheres of influence and to thwart those of the other.

In the United States of America, Afro-Americans were locked in struggles for their Civil Rights and for the recognition of their personal dignity. Fifty years down history lane, in 2013, very little, regrettably, has changed. One cannot not think of the slavery, trafficking of persons, conflicts and war-related abuses of every kind: rapes, suicides, pillage and genocides, the less obvious, but still pernicious acts and situations of oppression, imperialism and colonialism, conventional and informal (terroristic) wars never clean and usually very very dirty. Thus, to consider Pacem in Terris fifty years after it came out, should not be an occasion for nostalgia and reminiscence. Blessed John XXIII addressed the concrete situation of the world’s peoples in the early 1960s; and a comment he made then, leads us to consider the relevance of his encyclical fifty years after its publication. In his Opening Address at Vatican II, Blessed Pope John drew attention to the issue at hand. He said that

The great problem confronting the world after almost two thousand years remains unchanged. Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life. Men are either with Him and His Church, and then they enjoy light, goodness, order, and peace. Or else they are without Him, or against Him, and deliberately opposed to His Church, and then they give rise to confusion, to bitterness in human relations, and to the constant danger of fratricidal wars.

Thus, Pope John’s radical insight was to write about peace rather than about absence of war, and to address Pacem in Terris to all people and only secondarily to all nations. History showed him and has shown all of us the inadequacy of the humanly established order. Peace can be neither established nor guaranteed except by “diligent observance of the divinely established order,” and that is what he set himself to teach in the Encyclical, Pacem in Terris.


Biblical Setting

To understand the Encyclical at its deepest level and in its full scope, we should begin at the biblical foundations, namely the scriptural source of its opening words (which, according to tradition, also provide the Encyclical’s title). We can understand the meaning of the opening words, “pacem in terris”, in relationship to the expression heard by the shepherds when the choir of angels addressed the Lord with their hymn of praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to the men whom God loves” (Lk 2: 14).

What is especially striking is the correspondence between the second part of this hymn, “peace on earth to the men whom God loves”, and the title Pacem in Terris. The first part of the hymn is “Glory to God in the highest heaven”; the second is “peace on earth to the men whom He loves.”

Here heaven is set in relation to earth; glory corresponds to peace; and God parallels men – but which men? The translations vary slightly, for instance, men of good will or men whom God loves. But the heart of the matter is the fact that peace is a gift of God to all men, because God loves all. This gift becomes real, however, only for those who receive it and make its meaning their own.

Thus the biblical text suggests that peace is innate to man in himself, is connatural with man as man, not in the way, for example, that hydrocarbon compounds are a constituent of human physiognomy, but insofar as it is a gift which comes from God and becomes real to the degree that people welcome and embrace it. Peace on earth is not realized automatically in humanity in general. Rather, peace is for those who willingly qualify. Under some circumstances – well-defined and clearly illustrated with the expression “men and women whom God loves” – it can be a human experience to the degree that people accept and embrace this gift of God.

Let us now think beyond the birth of Christ. This peace can represent the message of the whole Gospel: Jesus with his coming brings something to earth, to humanity. The hymn provides further clues. It invites us to consider the relationship between God and man. This relationship is not simply a matter of the order of things – something that is simply there, a mere given. It is far more. It is a relationship that takes account of the fall of man, which occurs at the beginning of the Bible, and which necessitates the entire plan of salvation of man as such.

Another qualification is necessary regarding those “whom God loves.” Indeed, it is a necessary step or passage to affirm and declare the relationship between God and man. The first sentence of the Encyclical says that “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.” This declares that the realization of peace on earth requires something regarding a certain order. I suggest that this ‘something’ is found in the correspondence between the title or first three words of the Encyclical and the angels’ hymn of praise. Both elements – peace, earth – need qualification: peace to the men whom God loves, but peace on earth according to a certain order. This invites humanity to recognise from the beginning that peace is first and foremost a gift. It is a yearning for life, and we humans can attain peace under certain conditions: those whom God loves, as we read in the Gospel of Luke, if and only if they respect the order established by God and freely embrace the love He offers them.

Papal Precedents

The longing for peace is a wide river running through the pontifical texts of the troubled 20th century. Pope John XXIII was by no means unique in addressing this topic. Here are a few of the forerunner statements.

In his Appeal to the Leaders of the Warring Nations of 1917, Benedict XV (1914-1922) condemned war as unnecessary massacre or senseless slaughter. He systematically taught the same in his 1920 encyclical “Peace, the most beautiful task of God” on the theme of peace and Christian reconciliation. This was the first encyclical entirely devoted to the theme of peace.

Pius XI (1922-1939) dedicated his 1922 encyclical to “the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ” (the motto of his pontificate). Here he extensively developed the theme of Christian civilization in the years after the tragedy of World War I.

The motto of Pius XII’s pontificate (1939-1958) was Opus iustitiae pax, peace is the fruit or work of justice. During World War II, he gave many addresses and broadcast many Christmas Radio Messages promoting civil rights, social peace, and unity among nations. On matters of war and peace, he issued ten encyclicals, mostly after 1945 – for example, Optatissima pax (1947) on prescribing public prayers for social and world peace, and Summi maeroris (1950) on public prayers for peace. In the space of just eight days in the autumn of 1956, Pius XII published three encyclicals protesting the Soviet invasion of Hungary and praying for freedom and peace. On “offensive” warfare, the Pope ruled out any connection between war and justice. No justice can be achieved through war and violence. Between war, violence and justice, there is no affinity: they are mutually exclusive.

When the elderly Cardinal Giuseppe Roncalli was elected Pope, he took the name of John and, as we have seen, he did much to defuse world tensions throughout his five-year pontificate (1958-1963). Norman Cousins believes that the promulgation of Pacem in Terris stimulated the campaign for nuclear disarmament. In his book, The Improbable Triumvirate (1972), he attributes to President Kennedy, Pope John and Chairman Khrushchev an increasingly shared commitment to working for peace in a new spirit of optimism.

But preventing war is not the same as building peace, and it is the latter which Pope John would bequeath as his legacy to the Church and the world. Over the six months after the missile crisis of October 1962, Pacem in Terris was drafted in Italian and re-written several times. Finally translated into its official Latin, it was promulgated on Holy Thursday, 11 April 1963. As if he knew he was leaving his last will and testament to his sons and daughters in the Church and to all people of good will, Blessed Pope John signed it on television. The Encyclical was warmly welcomed by believers and non-believers alike, as the Holy Father had the satisfaction of knowing before he died, less than two months later, on 3 June 1963.


One might expect any Supreme Pontiff to call for an end to war; indeed, an end to violence and conflicts of all kinds, not just armed warfare. After all, isn’t peace the absence of war, conflict, violence?

But John XXIII does not argue from war to peace; he does not urge everyone to banish war and leave space for peace. Indeed, regarding war and peace, Pacem in Terris steered clear of any just war theory.

What the Pope does offer in Pacem in Terris is a Christian anthropological vision of man that provides a basis for changing ourselves – a sufficiently broad and profound vision to really build inner and outer peace that will last. For man, the centre and subject of both peace and war, is also the subject of an irreducible and unique dignity, and with a vocation to relationship. For John XXIII, human relationship and human dignity are the indispensable core, building-block and touch-stone of peace.

It is not difficult to grasp relationship and dignity as clear ideas and even as essential to an enlightened humanism that centres on the person in society. But with his inexorable insistence and careful elaboration, Blessed Pope John presents relationship and dignity as constitutive of the densest, thickest, richest human reality. They are what is most human in being human. And as such, we readily conceive of these as the gift of Creator when “In the beginning, God created man; in His image and likeness He created him; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). Dignity and relationship are the gift which man’s inhumanity so blindly denies and tramples and steals in so many monstrous ways.

Pacem in Terris identifies the origins of both war and peace in man, the human creature of God, who, in his innate freedom, is torn between good and evil. So it is, then, within man that conflict is born: within the individual and in relationships among persons, between societies or nations or states. But it is also in man, in his fundamental freedom, that the possibility of peace originates.

Relations, like coexistence, begin with the individual and dyad, extend to the small community and expand to society, nations and the entire globe. On all these levels and in all these forms of relationship and coexistence, the dignity of the person needs to be safeguarded by cultivating the virtues of truth, justice, love and freedom. Indeed, relationships are not something we happen to be in, and dignity is not something that we may or may not have. Relationships and dignity are what we are as human, and no one else and nothing else in heaven or on earth are so constituted. For this reason, if relationship and dignity are what constitute man as human, they also describe his rights and his duties or responsibilities. An important consequence follows: “They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority,” local, national or international. The dignity and rights of persons are prior to society and must be so recognized, so respected, so protected and promoted by society. Where justice (that is, respect for the demands of relationships in which we stand) governs how people treat one another and embrace each other’s dignity, there peace begins to reign.

At the beginning of October 2013, when Pope Francis addressed a conference on this Encyclical, he asked:

What is the foundation of building peace? Pacem in Terris makes us recall this: it consists in the divine origin of man, of society and of authority itself which calls individuals, families, different social groups and States to live out relations of justice and solidarity. It is the duty of all men and women to build peace following the example of Jesus Christ ... promoting and exercising justice with truth and love; everyone contributing, according to his means, to integral human development following the logic of solidarity.

God’s creation of man – the divine origin of humanity – constitutes a transcendental starting point of Pope John’s new way of thinking about peace. It is transcendental in at least four senses:

1. It belongs to all scales from relationships between two persons to relations between the great regional groupings and institutions and with the whole global community.

2. It fits all instances because it respectfully invokes human dignity and solidarity no matter what the level. 3. It is universal because it derives from our irreducible human essence, whether seen in terms

a. of the fundamentals of human nature (a consensus that suits secular thinkers), or b. of the divine origin and eternal destiny of human existence (a spiritual or religious conviction). And finally,

4. Within the Catholic tradition, this social teaching is thoroughly rooted in the words and deeds of the eternal God-made-man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s love and peace made incarnate and manifest in the world.

As we explore the teachings of Pacem in Terris, let us keep in mind, as does Pope Francis, this “divine origin” of peace. All is based upon the dignity instilled in man by the Creator and about which there is widespread conviction: “All men are equal in natural dignity.” (PiT 44)


Let us now survey the Encyclical, highlighting a key idea in its Introduction and five chapters:

Introduction (PiT 1-7)

God endowed his human creatures with freedom and intelligence (PiT 3). And yet, Pope John regrets, “there is a disunity among individuals and among nations which is in striking contrast to this perfect order in the universe. One would think that the relationships that bind men together could only be governed by force” (PIT 4). So in the relationship of force, the Pope sees a deviation from the order established by God. When we make use of force, we abandon ourselves to inhuman and irrational and destructive forces, rather than entrusting ourselves to reason according to the divine order. The building of peace on earth, the introduction insists, is certainly a task to be taken up with reason; and also, and better, with faith in God as well.

I. Order between men (PiT 8-45)

The first chapter, called “Order between men,” begins with the fundamental principle:

Each individual man is truly a person. His is a nature 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 (PiT 9).

Therefore all human beings are equal in dignity; without discrimination. All humans are equal, not only before the law, but in the eyes and hearts and, especially, behaviour of all their brothers and sisters. No one is too young a foetus or too immature a youth ... or too comatose or old; or too poor or handicapped or foreign; or too black or female, or too religious or of the wrong religion or tribe or party ... to be acknowledged as indivisibly, irreducibly human.

Every human being is a person, the subject of both rights and duties, and not just conventional rights but first of all rights lovingly infused by our Creator. To call a stone or a tomato or a dog an “individual” is accurate enough – any single entity can be so denoted. But as a category, “individual” says far too little about any one of us; for to be man, woman or child is to be brother or sister, created in relationship, created with equal human dignity, created as a member of one human family.

Towards the end of the first chapter, Pope John can already draw out an extraordinary consequence of the fundamental starting point which, I trust, we too are ready to adopt: “Human society thrives on freedom, namely, on the use of means which are consistent with the dignity of its individual members, who, being endowed with reason, assume responsibility for their own actions” (PIT 35).

II. Relations between individuals and the public authorities (PiT 46-79)

With its political vision of human coexistence, PiT focused attention on political society (that is, the human polity). To do so, the second chapter builds directly on the first. What is true between persons also holds true for any human grouping which we call “institution” or “authority”. The truth here could hardly be simpler: “All men are equal in natural dignity; no man has the capacity to force internal compliance on another.” Note how this is articulated within a paragraph on the legitimacy of public authority:

[A] regime which governs solely or mainly by means of threats and intimidation or promises of reward, provides men with no effective incentive to work for the common good. And even if it did, it would certainly be offensive to the dignity of free and rational human beings. Authority is before all else a moral force. For this reason the appeal of rulers should be to the individual conscience, to the duty which every man has of voluntarily contributing to the common good. But since all men are equal in natural dignity, no man has the capacity to force internal compliance on another. Only God can do that, for He alone scrutinizes and judges the secret counsels of the heart (PiT 48).

When we read this paragraph, it is worth imagining how it sounded in Moscow and in Washington in those Cold War years. Equally today, how does it sound in different regions of the globe? In all times and places, it asserts that no authority, no power has the right to coerce, to infringe upon freedom; on the contrary, every authority should pursue the common good and indeed protect the weak.

III. Relations between States (PiT 80-129)

Following Pope John’s basic logic, the third chapter treats how states should deal with one another. In his own words: “No one can be by nature superior to his fellows, since all men are equally noble in natural dignity. And consequently there are no differences at all between political communities from the point of view of natural dignity” (PiT 89).

With dignity grounding the relationships between and among political communities, Pacem in Terris rejects all oppression between State and State. Therefore – again it seems too simple, but so it is – , laws must be respected and, when violated, the lawbreaker fairly tried and really punished. Treaties must be implemented. Corruption, all kinds of cheating at every level, must be eradicated. If all this were done, would we not be much closer to justice and therefore to peace?

But there is more. For peace really to take hold, trust has to be at the centre, and Blessed John means real trust, not just diplomatic confidence-building measures. So what he calls for between states is not an eviscerated or diluted form of the respect that must obtain between persons!

In his own words, this is what is required: “Relations between States, as between individuals, must be regulated not by armed force, but in accordance with the principles of right reason: the principles, that is, of truth, justice and vigorous and sincere co-operation” (PiT 114) or effective solidarity. Logically, therefore, “lasting peace among nations cannot consist in the possession of an equal supply of armaments but only in mutual trust” (PiT 113). In an age of atomic weapons, it made no sense (alienum est a ratione) to think that war was a fitting instrument to rectify violations of justice (PiT 127, echoing Pius XII).

In October 1962, with countless nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at Moscow and Washington, imagine someone calling upon world leaders to set aside their mutual suspicion in favour of mutual trust – that someone can only have been a Prophet of God and indeed a Saint!

In our day, Pope Francis has adopted a similar stance in the face of the complex conflict in Syria and the Middle East. On 1 September 2013, he declared:

I condemn the use of chemical weapons... It is never the use of violence that brings peace. War breeds war, violence breeds violence. With all my strength, I ask all the parties in conflict to listen to the voice of their own consciences, not to consider only their own interests, but to look at the other as a brother and to take up firmly and courageously the path of a face-to-face encounter and negotiation as a way of overcoming blind conflict.

IV. Relationship of men and of political communities with the world community (PiT 130-145)

The next chapter turns to the supranational dimensions of human political coexistence. In our globalized world it is customary to lament the fragmentation and isolation into which we seem to be falling, despite vastly enhanced means of communication – never so instantly connectible, yet never so alone and out of touch with each other. And so the title of the fourth chapter delights me with its audacious hope, for it claims that not only states belong to the world community but also individual persons (“men”). Yes, we all belong to the global community ... and that is what the Encyclical has been saying from the beginning. And the precious expression for that, in Catholic Social teaching, is the common good.

“The common good of individual States is something that cannot be determined without reference to the human person,” says Pope John, “and the same is true of the common good of all States taken together” (PIT 139). In this chapter, he also writes that “Today the universal common good presents us with problems which are world-wide in their dimensions” (PiT 137). This leads to his far-sighted remarks on a political authority on a world scale which, if oriented towards the universal common good, must necessarily be founded on the dignity of human persons as free beings endowed with rights and duties.

Accordingly, Blessed John hopes that “the United Nations Organization may be able progressively to adapt its structure and methods of operation to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks” (PiT 145). Pacem in Terris calls for a public authority of the world community “to evaluate and find a solution to economic, social, political and cultural problems which affect the universal common good” (PiT 140). Global public authority is a challenge which, although very urgent, must surely take many patient years to be met in an effective and responsible manner.

V. Pastoral exhortations (PiT 146-172)

Arriving finally at the fifth chapter and seeing it entitled “pastoral exhortations,” the hasty reader can be forgiven for thinking that the effective substance of the Encyclical has been given and now come a few pious suggestions for peace vigils and the like. Whereas in fact, this is where all the rubber hits all the roads! Let me choose one very favourite paragraph that bespeaks not an optional piety but a very serious obligation or task that follows from all the foregoing, namely,

the task of establishing new relationships in human society, under the mastery and guidance of truth, justice, charity and freedom – relations between individual citizens, between citizens and their respective States, between States, and finally between individuals, families, intermediate associations and States on the one hand, and the world community on the other. There is surely no one who will not consider this a most exalted task, for it is one which is able to bring about true peace in accordance with divinely established order (PiT 163).

I believe that PiT 163 sums up the powerful efficacy of the Encyclical. It hearkens back to the opening passages, the creation of man as intelligent and free; thus, relationships that are conceived solely in terms of force are a deviation and a failure. John XXIII extends a most powerful invitation to action, to political participation, so that reason might prevail over barbarity, law over violence and, in imitation of God at the very beginning, order, generosity, light and life over chaos.

This paragraph makes another crucial contribution by identifying the four pillars or virtues of truth, justice, love and freedom on which peace must be founded. These are the basis for harmonious development and for solidarity among peoples. These pillars are also the virtues of communion and fraternity, which is what every man and woman was created for: to be in communion with God and with one another.


Blessed Pope John’s magisterial Encyclical conveys teachings for many areas of application. Among these, he gives special attention to the education of the Church’s sons and daughters. His remarks apply to any tertiary education which is well-rounded and worthy of the name “Catholic”. It will manifest three intertwined dynamics: completeness, contextualization and collaboration.

a. Completeness: Christian education, says Pope John, must be “complete and continuous, and imparted in such a way that moral goodness and the cultivation of religious values may keep pace with scientific knowledge and continually advancing technical progress” (PiT 153). It should help people to overcome the debilitating separation between faith and life: an unfortunate feature of the lives of many today.

The audience today includes young men preparing for ordained ministry. Thinking of your future loving work, I enthusiastically endorse the above guidance for the formation of religious men and women as well as lay Catholics. Everyone has a cell phone, and so everyone is connected to the science and technology of today and tomorrow, which offer exceptional opportunities and dangerous pitfalls as they advance at a furious pace. Without knowledge in these realms, you would be less relevant to the lives that surround you, oblivious to pressing problems that people face every day, and deprived of powerful tools that you could use.

b. Contextualization: All the faithful have the duty to participate actively in public life, to contribute to the political community, and to help to realize the common good of the human family. “In the light of Christian faith, and with love as their guide,” the Encyclical says, they must endeavour “to ensure that every institution, whether economic, social, cultural or political, be such as not to obstruct but rather to facilitate man’s self-betterment, both in the natural and in the supernatural order” (PiT 146). It is into the tumultuous public place – the one world’s marketplace made ever more global by the internet – that Catholics must be missioned as well-prepared politicians, public servants, opinion makers, and participants in the great debates of our times. Among these missioned Catholics, of course, will be the religious men and women whose voices and efforts should be central to some of the developments in the public space and on the sidelines of others. For lay, ordained and religious to be effective, it is essential to learn a sound method in order to read and interpret reality, to discern the objective demands of justice in each concrete situation, and so to move from socially-engaged theory to socially-constructive praxis.

It is noteworthy that all the modern Holy Fathers have, in one way or another, encouraged Catholics to take up their role in politics, to embrace the vocation to politics as a high form of charity. Benedict XVI repeatedly called for the formation of Catholics capable of assuming responsibility in the various areas of society, “especially in politics. This area needs more than ever people who are capable of building a “good life” for the benefit and at the service of all, especially young people. Indeed, Christians, pilgrims bound for Heaven but who already live an anticipation of eternity on earth cannot shirk this commitment.” Pope Francis has also invited the faithful to become interested and participate creatively in politics.

c. Collaboration: Such public practice will inevitably require collaboration with people outside the Church, as Blessed John XXIII recognizes. Even where there is doctrinal disagreement, one should never confuse the error with the one who is erring. In the final part of the Encyclical, the Pope encourages Catholics to cooperate with non-Catholics in the fields of economic, social and political development towards objectives that are authentically promising and good.

Pacem in Terris does not claim that the duty of the Church is to give concrete directions on topics which, in their complexity, must be left open to discussion. It is not dogma which indicates practical solutions in political, economic and social matters but rather dialogue, listening, patience, respect for the other, sincerity and readiness to revise one’s opinion. Basically John XXIII’s appeal for peace in 1962 aimed to orient the international debate according to these virtues. This includes dialogue with those of other faiths or none. For this, may you become familiar with other convictions as well as our own inspired tradition. This will prove essential as you accompany Catholics immersed in building peace with their neighbours of all persuasions.

To summarize, a well-educated Catholic will be • enlightened by faith and inflamed by the desire for goodness.

• intellectually, culturally and scientifically competent, and• spiritually integrated amongst the personal, professional, political and religious dimensions of life.

As a religious educational institution located in the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Studium Theologicum Salesianum will itself want to be engaged in its surrounding social and cultural reality. May your formation assist you to bring Christ’s healing and teaching to this “city of peace”, as its name suggests, to those who live here and those who arrive on devoted pilgrimage, and to every other land to which Christ sends you on mission.


Let us now examine three approaches to building on the foundational truths of Pacem in Terris:

a. A Focus on Rights

The Encyclical stresses the rights of all people. Having introduced the value of the human person at the outset, Pope John went on to describe those rights which belong to men and women by nature, by creation. Human beings have the right to live; to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life; and to the necessary health and social services. Men and women also have various rights under these headings: rights pertaining to moral and cultural values; the right to worship God according to one's conscience; the right to choose freely one's state in life; economic rights; the right of meeting and association; the right to emigrate and immigrate; and political rights.

The Holy Father affirmed as well that along with rights come duties, as a matter of natural law. First, one’s duties are to oneself: “Thus, for example, the right to live involves the duty to preserve one's life; the right to a decent standard of living, the duty to live in a becoming fashion; the right to be free to seek out the truth, the duty to devote oneself to an ever deeper and wider search for it.” Second, this gives rise to reciprocity of rights and duties between persons. One person’s natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in others of respecting that right. We are not only called to claim our human rights but we are also called to respect the human rights of others.

b. The Prayer of St. Francis: our Existential Desires

Now lest we take human rights in too limited a fashion, let me repeat and continue the statement of Cardinal Pavan that I quoted earlier: “Human beings – men and women – have already acquired, or are in the process of acquiring, their personal dignity: a dignity understood not in the moral but in the existential sense. And it is this dignity which becomes recognized and attributed to every human being in virtue of his very nature only for the fact that he is a person.”

This leads me to another approach we can take to building peace. Many of you are familiar with the beautiful prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which in its popular English versions begins with the words “Make me a channel of your peace” or an “instrument of peace.” This prayer addresses the satisfaction of existential yearnings: by countering hatred with love, despair with hope, darkness with light, sadness with joy, injury with pardon, doubt with faith; by understanding, consoling, pardoning, giving and loving; by bringing peace; and in doing all this, we attain eternal life.

c. The teaching of Pope Francis

The Prayer of St. Francis leads us to think of our beloved Holy Father. Less than a month into his pontificate, Pope Francis was already giving a sense of how he longed for the Church to be a ‘channel for peace.’ In his address to the Diplomatic Corps on 22 March, he asserted that “what matters to the Holy See [is] the good of every person upon this earth!” He followed this by noting three key characteristics of St. Francis of Assisi – love for the poor, the striving for peace for which truth is essential, and care for all of nature.

Further, he suggested a link between peace-building and bridge-building. Pope Francis referred to his title of Pontiff, that is,

... a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! … [The] dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

Indeed, proper arrangements between nations and careful observance of others’ rights are essential in this globalized era, but they are not enough. We must also build bridges of true dialogue and true fraternity if we are to build peace. In this Pope Francis explicitly included dialogue with Islam:

At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.”


I began with historical references to a half-century of papal commitment to peace against a background of war. Then Blessed John XXIII gave the world his final encyclical with the surprising title “Peace on earth” – a surprise because in the early 1960s, at the brink of mutual atomic destruction , everyone would naturally anticipate another exhortation to avoid war. Instead, Pacem in Terris contained something truly new: a radical re-imagining of harmony in the world founded on human relationship and dignity – so radical, indeed, that human relationships on every scale, from world-wide and among regions and major States down to the “I and thou” of two people, are founded on the same principles of relationship and dignity. We have also explored the Biblical background to the title or first three words “pacem in terris”; the highlights of each chapter; and implications for the realms of education, formation and peace-building.

Is Pacem in Terris still relevant? Pope Francis has spoken forcefully about peace in the past months, and his statements are a prolongation of the 50-year-old message. Let me summarize his remarks in Brazil in late July. “War is like a fever. It shows that someone is ill. But it is not the sickness itself. Peacemaking which only addresses war is like medicine which tries to bring down the fever, but does not cure the underlying sickness.”

He calls on all people to overcome injustice, the inequalities rampant throughout the world: “Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices.” It is not selfishness and individualism, it is not a society that throws away its so-called “useless” members; it is rather solidarity and fraternity that build a more habitable world, a world more human and more divine.

We must never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts, because we are brothers and sisters. No one is disposable! Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied!

He concludes with a fivefold plea for attention to the “the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods” so as to achieve the common good and real human development:

Life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted; the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation; integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for purposes of generating profit; health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension, essential for human balance and healthy coexistence; security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts.

These remarks effectively renew the plea of Blessed John XXIII, half a century ago yet still present: “Peace is but an empty word, if it does not rest upon ... an order that is founded on truth, built up on justice, nurtured and animated by charity, and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom” (PiT 167).

These two Popes, 50 years apart, give direction for building an edifice of peace – peace-building, construction of that shalom which is the true, habitable home of the human race, the real possibility of realizing peace in history.

To explore new frontiers of war and peace, a good place to start is with oneself. This is how the Holy Father addressed everyone’s conscience during the Vigil for Peace on 7 September: “Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death!”

Here at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum in Jerusalem, forming future pastors and ministers of peace, let us offer the prayer of Pope Francis and ask God to help us put it into practice: “May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity.... Let us pray ... for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace!”

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson President