Pope John XXIII signs encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’ in 1963. CNS photo.
This Week of Easter I was in Chicago for a conference a group of us had planned for over a year to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s great encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth.
Many friends with whom I have worked in the area of Catholic social teaching were there but what made the gathering so successful was the range of speakers who brought forth the importance and relevance of Pope John’s letter “to all people of good will.” In 1963 this statement on human rights, human dignity, relations among persons and of citizens with their government and of states among states for the universal common good was greeted with great respect. Robert Hutchins, a non-Catholic and a great intellectual light organized a meeting of over 100 nations at the United Nations in New York to discuss the Pope’s thought.
This week, we sought to bring forth his teaching on peace as a gift of God based on the four pillars of truth, justice, freedom and charity. Today’s contemporary society either relativizes or denies all four of those building blocks of peace. How inspiring and uplifting it was to have Church leaders, scholars of all religious backgrounds, young and old together to renew our commitment to those and our agreement to make the thought of that blessed pope a new foundation for a changed society of the twenty first century.
I will write more on it but I wanted to share with you what a positive experience I had being able to exchange ideas and think through today’s challenges with some of the best minds and most influential men and women of our faith and of other faiths all committed to truth, justice, freedom and charity as the basis of true peace.