Below is a piece from the JPIC Roma NewsBrief for January-February 2023. It speaks of the enduring relevance of Pacem in Terris promulgated in 1963. Our world cries out for Peace – the war, killing and destruction in Ukraine is about to enter its second year and all around our world the inherent dignity of human beings is denied by injustice that takes many forms and exists through the denial of many basic rights.
As we reflect on the 60th anniversary of Pacem in Terris, the message is still vitally needed today. Pope St. John XXIII affirmed that the modern Catholic tradition of social thought is illuminated “by one basic theme – an unshakable affirmation and defense of the dignity and rights of the human person”. In his encyclical on peace, he “recognized the necessity for each state to have a clear and precisely worded charter of fundamental human rights to be formulated and incorporated into the State’s general constitutions”.
Every human person is entitled to universal rights including “the right to live” and “the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services”.
These rights include all the civil, political, social and economic rights that are necessary for a dignified life. In the modern Catholic tradition of social thought, guidance comes from ”an unshakable affirmation and defense of the dignity and rights of the human person” showing us the importance of protecting the rights of all people, not just the fortunate.
The message of peace is important in this time of conflict with the conflict in Ukraine and the environmental exploitation in the Congo Rainforest including South Sudan and the DRC.
Pope Francis has called the encyclical a “permanent commitment to peace” that is still valid and essential. He has long been concerned with the root causes of violence, the “mechanisms of oppression”, and the “reckless exploitation of human beings and the resources of nature”. Pope Francis tells us that the absence of war and conflict is not enough, but we must be called to an “integral development of people and populations”. He also says that to make these lofty words into reality, we must “overcome egoisms, individualisms, group interests” as we “work for a more just and solidaristic society”.
We must do all in our power as we honor the call of Pacem in Terris and work towards a just and equitable world for everyone.