Pope Francis: ‘Pacem in Terris’ invites renewed efforts for peace

In a message sent to participants in a Vatican conference on the 60th anniversary of “Pacem in Terris”, Pope Francis renews his calls for nations to eliminate nuclear weapons and use ‘conventional’ arms only in self-defense.

By Sr. Nina Benedikta Krapić, VMZ

Pope Francis sent a message on Tuesday to participants in an International Conference organized by the Academy of Social Sciences and the Peace Research Institute Oslo to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Pacem in Terris, the landmark encyclical of Pope St. John XXIII.

In his message addressed to Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Chancellor of the Academy, the Pope said the conference is taking place “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.

Paths to peace

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.

He urged participants to analyze current military and technology-based threats to peace, as well as disciplined ethical reflection “on the grave risks associated with the continuing possession of nuclear weapons, the urgent need for renewed progress in disarmament, and the development of peace-building initiatives.”

The Pope repeated his statement from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in 2019, when he said that “the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral,” adding that “a world free of nuclear arms is possible and necessary.”

Threats of ‘conventional’ warfare

At the same time, Pope Francis noted that the world must not let the threat of nuclear warfare overshadow the use of so-called “conventional” weapons in modern warfare.

Even conventional arms, he said, “should be used for defensive purposes only and not directed to civilian targets.”

“It is my hope that sustained reflection on this issue will lead to a consensus that such weapons, with their immense destructive power, will not be employed in a way that foreseeably causes ‘superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering’, to use the words of the St. Petersburg Declaration,” said Pope Francis.

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, all peoples may embrace each other as brothers and sisters, and that the peace for which they long may ever flourish and reign among them.”