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Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) was a papal encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII on 11 April 1963. It remains one of the most famous of 20th century encyclicals and established principles that featured in some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and of later popes. It was the last encyclical drafted by John XXIII, who died from cancer two months after its completion .
Pacem in terris was the first encyclical that the Pope did not address to the Catholic faithful only, but also to "all men of good will".
In this work, John XXIII reacted to the then political situation in the middle of the Cold War. The "peace encyclical" was issued only two years after the erection of the Berlin Wall and only a few months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Pope explains in this encyclical that conflicts "should not be resolved by recourse to arms, but rather by negotiation". He further emphasizes the importance of respect of human rights as an essential consequence of the Christian understanding of men. He clearly establishes, "...That every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life..."
The document is divided into four sections.
- The first section of the encyclical establishes the relationship between individuals and humankind, encompassing the issues of human rights and moral duties.
- The second section addresses the relationship between man and state, dwelling on the collective authority of the later.
- The third section establishes the need for equality amongst nations and the need for the state to be subject to rights and duties that the individual must abide by.
- The final section presents the need for greater relations between nations, thus resulting in collective states assisting other states. The encyclical ends with the urging of Catholics to assist non-Christians and non-Catholics in political and social aspects
The full title of the encyclical is On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity and Liberty. The short title Pacem in Terris, is derived from the opening words (incipit) of the encyclical, as is customary with papal documents:
- Pacem in terris, quam homines universi cupidissime quovis tempore appetiverunt, condi confirmarique non posse constat, nisi ordine, quem Deus constituit, sancte servato."
- ("Peace on earth, which all men of every era have most eagerly yearned for, can be firmly established only if the order laid down by God be dutifully observed.")
In commemoration of this encyclical, the annual Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award was instituted in 1964, first by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport and later by the Quad Cities Pacem in Terris Coalition.“Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth) enumerated the rights of the human person to life, respect, freedom and education as well as working towards the end of nuclear weapons, and arms race.
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