Pacem in Terris at 50

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As the world looks upon the election of a new Pope and the beginning of his ministry, a new light shines on the Papacy itself. In 2013, the Church celebrates a remarkable part of the legacy Pope Francis inherits in marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of Pacem in Terris, the last encyclical of Pope John XXIII, Francis' much-loved predecessor in the See of Peter.

"Once again we exhort our people to take an active part in public life, and to contribute towards the attainment of the common good of the entire human family as well as to that of their own country."

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) was published in the midst of Cold War anxieties and posturing (the Berlin Wall had been erected two years before, and the Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred a mere six months prior), and spoke of a world where conflicts are settled through negotiation rather than war, and of a Christian understanding that states are called to respect human rights and basic needs: "That every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life…."

Catholic Relief Services celebrates the encyclical, its vision of nations working together for the peaceful benefit of all peoples, and the overwhelming affirmation of the CRS mission in the conclusion, urging Catholics to provide assistance to all, helping them secure their rights and subsistence, and in helping them build just societies.

Excerpts from Pacem in Terris and resources for learning more about the encyclical.