18 August 2013
Peace on Earth in Justice
Warm greetings from the CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development!
This year marks the completion of fifty years after the Encyclical Pacem in Terris was authored and
released by Pope John XXIII on 11 April 1963. Pacem in Terris is a heartfelt cry for the cause of
justice and peace and a testament to the incontestable fact that Pope John XXIII was an apostle of
The release of Pacem in Terris was timely and its clarion call for peace appropriate as the world
then had witnessed the Cuban Missile Crisis – an “arm wrestle” between the U.S. and the USSR –
in 1962, and the erection of the Berlin Wall. The world was at the verge of an atomic war on
account of the mounting tensions between the North and the South Blocs, and the ‘existence and
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.’ However, this encyclical helped deactivate the
horrific mechanism of the crisis.
We notice today the same tendency of nations to attempt to preserve peace through the production
and stockpiling of arms. Excessive economic, social and cultural inequalities among peoples arouse
tensions and conflicts, and are a danger to peace. The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept
and offer forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between people, interrupting the
spiral of hatred – revenge – violence. To love the one who offends you disarms the adversary and is
able to transform a battlefield into a place of supportive cooperation.
Synod of Bishops in 1971 spoke of ‘Love of neighbour’ as an absolute demand for justice, because
charity must manifest itself in actions and structures which respect human dignity, protect human
rights, and facilitate human development. To promote justice is to transform structures which block
love. Peace is not what we find in a place that is free of noise, problems and hard work; peace is
what allows us to preserve the calm in our hearts in adverse situations.
Pacem in Terris emphasised that peace on earth can only be established if the right order of
relationship exists between individuals, between and within nations and among all people. These
relationships must acknowledge that ‘every human being is a person’ and as a person everyone has
rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from human nature. If heeded well, the
encyclical’s appeal that “any dispute which may arise between nations must be resolved by
negotiation and agreement, and not by recourse to arms” (PT, 126) will go a long way in ensuring
and establishing peace not only between India and Pakistan or between India and China but among
all warring countries in any part of the world.
India – the largest importer of arms in the world, and one of the 24 countries that abstained from the
UN Arms Trade Treaty – particularly needs to learn right lessons from what Pacem in Terris says
about Arms Race. Arms Race deprives less developed countries of social and economic progress
(PT, 109) and creates a climate of fear. “Hence justice, right reason, and the recognition of man’s
[/woman’s] dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the Arms Race” (PT, 112).
The Church in India is concerned about the following issues: Arms Race; any political and
economic power that excludes the poor; the protection of the environment; those philosophies and
attitudes that see people simply as consumers; domestic violence, any violations of human rights;
all forms of violence; and any spirituality that disconnects us from the concerns of the world. In
short, we are concerned with the issues of the world and everyday life and sustain hope in the midst
of all the concerns and problems of the world. Envisioning a new world order built on the pillars of
truth, justice, love and freedom, in the words of Holy Father, Pope Francis, we need to counter a
culture of waste with a culture of solidarity. The CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development
sees in Pacem in Terris a constant reminder to individuals and the nations that they always choose
the path of peace abandoning the path of war and strife.
As Mother Teresa said, “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop
in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something”. We,
Christians, have to speak freely on issues that the government or others may find disagreeable and
act on their consciences in the workplace and elsewhere. In his Easter message, our Holy Father,
Pope Francis lamented: “Peace to the whole world, torn apart … by the iniquitous exploitation of
natural resources!” Sadly, the peoples of many nations with an abundance of natural resources find
themselves victims of a paradox that some refer to as the “resource curse.” Genuine transparency
and participation can change the “resource curse” into a blessing. In word and gesture, Pope Francis
invites us these days to act in ways that protect “the poorest, the weakest, and the least important” in
18 August 2013 being the Justice Sunday – an observance diligently fostered by the CBCI Office
for Justice, Peace and Development every year – the Office wishes to invite all Christians and
people of good will in our great nation, India, “to search, first of all, for what contributes to peace”
(Rom 14:19) and to allow themselves to be reminded and inspired by the guiding principles of
Pacem in Terris that will ensure peace on earth in justice. This gesture on the part of the Office is
intended to be a fitting tribute to the historic Encyclical.
On the Justice Sunday this year, let us affirm our resolve to transform this world into a divinely
established order, into God’s own kingdom ‘that is founded on truth, built up on justice, nurtured
and animated by charity, and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom’ (PT, 167). Let our
fundamental objective of the celebration of Justice Sunday be the recognition, respect, safeguarding
and promotion of the rights of the human person to build peace on earth in justice.
Assuring one and all of you of our prayers for enduring peace on earth – peace that will be the fruit
of justice, truth, charity, and liberty, we remain,
Yours in Jesus Christ,
Most Rev. Dr Yvon Ambroise Most Rev. Dr Mathew Arackal
Chairperson Most Rev. Dr Gerald Almeida
Rev. Dr Charles Irudayam
Office for Justice, Peace and Development
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India