‘Pacem in Terris’ (‘Peace on Earth’) encyclical marks 50 years

By Barb Arland-Fye

Pope John XXIII signs his encyclical “Peace on Earth” (“Pacem in Terris”) at the Vatican in this 1963 file photo. Considered a highlight in Catholic social teaching, the encyclical addresses universal rights and relations between states. The document marks its 50th anniversary April 11, the date of its issue. (CNS photo)

Citizens of the world held their breath as the United States and Soviet Union came perilously close to nuclear war in late fall of 1962. Responding to that threat, Blessed John XXIII wrote a memorable papal document addressed to the world’s people and titled Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), which marks its 50th anniversary today.
“It was the first encyclical addressed not just to Catholics, but to all people of good will,” noted Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a priest of the Diocese of Davenport. Inspired by the encyclical, the Catholic Interracial Council, of which Msgr. Mottet was a leader, established the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. Some of the world’s foremost leaders in peace and justice — including Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. — have traveled to Davenport to receive this award over the past 49 years.

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