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Vatican conference assesses enduring impact of Pacem in Terris

April 30, 2012

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The historic 1963 encyclical of Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris “still much to teach us as we struggle to face the new challenges for peace and justice in the post-Cold-War era,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The Pontifical Academy, meeting in Rome this week, is dedicating its 18th plenary session to a discussion of Pacem in Terris. The Pope said that the landmark social encyclical offers “a message that can resonate with people of all beliefs and none, because its truth is accessible to all.”

Pope Benedict also called attention to the statement by Blessed John Paul II in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when he said that there can be “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.” An impulse toward forgiveness, Pope Benedict said, is needed to “transform the sterile language of mutual recrimination which leads nowhere.” He elaborated:

Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward, out of the impasse that so often locks people and nations into a vicious circle of violence. Since 1963, some of the conflicts that seemed insoluble at the time have passed into history. Let us take heart, then, as we struggle for peace and justice in the world today, confident that our common pursuit of the divinely established order, of a world where the dignity of every human person is accorded the respect that is due, can and will bear fruit.

Speaking with Vatican Radio about the Pontifical Academy’s discussions, one American participant, Russell Hittinger of the University of Tulsa, said that the advent of the internet, creating the possibility of educating people across international boundaries, has opened new avenues toward the “complex kind of multi-layered peace that people seem to want.”

Another participant, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, praised Pacem in Terris, saying that he was struck by “how modern it is and how in tune it is with modern thinking.”


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  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 01, 2012 9:29 PM ET USA

    "Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward...," Our Holy Father speaks with his usual eloquence. How much better is it to effect change peacefully than by war! Yet even peaceful "change" carries with it a price. Pagan Rome was "conquered" without the carnage of war, yet not bloodlessly. Who will once again approach courageously the altar of our God? Ave...