So like with the opening of Vatican II last October, this past week we are celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the release of John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. John XXIII’s last encyclical is the first to be addressed to all men and women of good will and not just Catholic, this is now a common practice. Pacem in terris was written in reaction to the political atmosphere at the time mainly the Cold War, it was issued shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis when we were on the brink of another World War. Scholars have pointed out that this is the first encyclical to really talk about human right perhaps the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) played a role in the crafting of this encyclical.
Now Pacem in terris is divided up into five sections, the first four looking at different area (order among humans, relations between individuals and states, relations between states and the word community) and the last John XXIII’s thoughts on it on. The first section (Order between People) offers the rights and duties of all humans. The rights are similar to those outlined by the UN but there are some religious flair added on like the right to choose to establish a family or pursue a religious vocation. The duties are all nice rules to live by, acknowledge and respect the rights of others and basically work together to preserve life. John also mentions that women are being more active in society; I think this was also a first. John XXIII continues with (Relations between Individuals and States) a reflection on how all authority comes from God and States should be doing things for the best interest of the people in the State. He suggests that all good governments have a three fold division of legislative, executive and judicial and should have signed the UDHR, a constitution and relations between the citizens and the state should have rights and duties. Next John looks at the role between States and says that they need to act in truth, in justice, in solidarity and in liberty with one another. Here John XXIII speaks out against an arms race saying “Justice, then. right reason, and consideration for human dignity and life demand that the arms race cease” this was fifty years ago and we still basically have an arms race going on, with the US and Russia trying to keep rogue nations from obtaining Nuclear devices. In the fourth section (Relation of People and of Political Communities with the World) it is suggested that the UN should be fostered, nations are unable to promote the universal common good and that individual nations can’t seek something for their own in isolation. Finally John offers some advice on how to bring about a more peaceful world he says that the only way to change the world is for it to be an inside job, and urges us to be more active in politics and organizations to try to influence change from within and that our faith and actions need to be.
Pacem in Terris is one of the many documents of Catholic Social Teaching and offers a guide for how we can make World Peace a reality. Now it seems that many people have forgotten about this encyclical and it should be read by all politicians for fifty years we have had this document and it seems like there is more violence in the world today. At least in the outer space community can we have world peace with the construction of the ISS and its subsequent expeditions Russians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and Japanese all have been working together. This reminded me that last night (April 12) was the 52nd anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into outer space aboard Vostok 1. Gagarin made one orbit around the Earth and landed about two hours later. It also marked the 32nd anniversary of the flight of STS-1 the first mission of the Space Shuttle program. If only Nations around the world could act like space programs, specifically those involved with the International Space Station, actively working together for the betterment of all people around the globe.