The International Day of Peace (IDP) is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. Never has our world needed peace more. This year’s theme is Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals. It is a call to action that recognises our individual and collective responsibility to foster peace. Fostering peace contributes to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will create a culture of peace for all, so that there may be peace on earth.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said:
“Peace is needed today more than ever. War and conflict are unleashing devastation, poverty, and hunger, and driving tens of millions of people from their homes. Climate chaos is all around. And even peaceful countries are gripped by gaping inequalities and political polarisation.”
Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris)
In a message sent to participants in a recent Vatican conference on the 60th anniversary of of the publication of Pacem in Terris (the landmark encyclical of Pope St. John XXIII) Pope Francis renewed his calls for nations to eliminate nuclear weapons and use ‘conventional’ arms only in self-defense. Pope Francis sent a message on Tuesday 19th September, to participants at the Conference organised by the Academy of Social Sciences and the Peace Research Institute Oslo. The Pope said:
“… as our world continues to be in the grip of a third world war fought piecemeal, and, in the tragic case of the conflict in Ukraine, not without the threat of recourse to nuclear weapons.”
He compared the present moment with the one that proceeded the publication of Pacem in Terris, when in October 1962, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction. Pope Francis encouraged the Conference to devote its reflections to those parts of Pacem in Terris that discuss disarmament and the pathways to lasting peace.
In conclusion, the Pope recalled the words of his predecessor, St. John XXIII, at the conclusion of Pacem in Terris, as he prayed that:
“… by God’s power and inspiration, may all peoples embrace each other as brothers and sisters, so that the peace for which they long may ever flourish and reign among them.”
Let us pray fervently for peace.
That peace which Jesus came to bring us.
To banish from the souls of all whatever might endanger peace.
To transform all peoples into witnesses of
truth, justice and brotherly love.
May all who lead and govern be enlightened, so that,
besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples,
they may also guarantee them the fairest gift of peace.
May Christ in us, inflame the desire of all
to break through the barriers which divide them,
to strengthen the bonds of mutual love,
to learn to understand one another,
and to pardon those who have done them wrong.
Through prayer and inspiration
may all peoples welcome each other to their hearts
as brothers and sisters,
and may the peace they long for ever flower
and ever reign among them.
(Adapted from Pacem in Terris, 172).
About Pacem in Terris (lit. “Peace on Earth”)
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 of the encyclical, as is customary with papal documents.
The encyclical was issued by Pope John XXIII on 11 April 1963, on the rights and obligations of people and their states, as well as proper interstate relations. It emphasises human dignity and human equality in endorsing women’s rights, nuclear nonproliferation and the United Nations. It was the last encyclical drafted by this pope, who died two months after its completion. Biographer Peter Hebblethwaite called it his “last will and testament”. Published on Holy Thursday, John called it his Easter gift. Due to its importance and popularity, Pacem in terris is held in the UN archives.
To read the full encyclical see Pacem in Terris (April, 11 1963) | John XXIII (vatican.va)