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In this issue...
THE CATHOLIC SOCIAL JUSTICE QUARTERLY www.justicemagazine.org Spring 2015
Pope John XXIII: A passion for peace
Make space for our migrants
Empowering women to help transform lives
Prayers for pardon
The path to peace
South Sudan: Pain and missing reconciliation
Their value and worth is more than the cargo they carry
Decades of care in the heart of the East End
Why action on climate change is needed now
How social action can change the world
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p8Make space for
42 Final Thought
Cover image: Duncan Harris
Feature: Pope John XXIII
POPE JOHN XXIII A passion for peace
4 JUSTICE MAGAZINE
Fr Kenneth Overberg on the legacy of Pacem in Terris and its relevance today
SHORTLY AFTER RECEIVING a diagnosis of terminal cancer and opening the Second Vatican Council in October 1962, Pope John helped resolve the Cuban missile crisis, the confrontation between the United States and Russia that threatened nuclear war.
This crisis intensified Johns passion for peace. He was hop-ing that Vatican IIs renewal would contribute to building
peace. With his days numbered, John committed to writing for the world his vision of a path to peace. In April of 1963 the pope issued Peace on Earth, the first papal letter addressed to all people of goodwill. Less than two months later, Pope John XXIII died.
John often writes in general terms, recognising the respon-sibility of citizens and their governments to develop specific
practices, such as taxes or im-migration laws, that express his wise vision.
The heart of Johns message is this: Protecting and promoting human rights is a foundation for world peace. He develops this conviction in a series of ever-larger concentric circles of human rights, public authorities, international relations, and the universal common good.
He grounds this vision on an
JUSTICE MAGAZINE 5
John turns his attention to the relation between individuals and public authorities in ones country. He stresses both the necessity for authority for a well-ordered and prosperous society and the recognition that authority itself comes from God
understanding of the nature of the human person (natural law) that takes seriously the signs of the times. John stated: Peace on earth, which people of every era have most eagerly yearned for, can be firmly established only if the order laid down by God be dutifully observed.
Pope John builds on this foun-dation by spelling out in some detail the persons rights and du-ties that flow from ones nature and dignity.
He begins with fundamental rights: The right to life and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education. Every hu-man being also has the right to worship God according to ones conscience and to choose freely ones vocation.
Economic rights include work, a just wage, and private property. Other rights mentioned in Peace on Earth are the right of assem-bly and association, the right to immigrate, the right to partici-pate in public affairs and to be protected by law.
Peace on Earth balances these rights with a corresponding em-phasis on duties. John states that when a person becomes aware of ones rights, then that person must become equally conscious of the related duties. For exam-ple, the right to life brings with it the duty to preserve life.
The pope extends this balance to an individuals life in society: To one persons right there cor-responds a duty in all others to acknowledge and respect that right. This leads John to reflect on the social nature of human beings and on the responsibil-ity to contribute to the common good (all those conditions of society that enable people more
fully to flourish as human beings.John turns his attention to the
relation between individuals and public authorities in ones coun-try. He stresses both the necessity for authority for a well-ordered and prosperous society and the recognition that authority itself comes from God. In this con-text, John states that the whole reason for the existence of civil authorities is the realisation of the common good.
Peace on Earth highlights spe-cial concern for the poor as one of the essentials of the common good.
Pope John, who came from a poor family, notes that political authorities, in order to promote justice and fairness, at times need to give more attention to those less able to defend their rights.
For experience has taught us that, unless [public] authorities take suitable action with regard to economic, political and cultur-al matters, inequalities between citizens tend to become more and more widespread, especially in the modern world.
Other essentials of the common good, and so part of the respon-sibilities of civil authorities, include such things as transpor-tation, communications, water, public health and insurance.
Citizens participation in public life is clearly essential. Political authorities must also face the
challenge of balancing competing rights and claims.
They must co-ordinate social relations in such fashion that the exercise of one persons rights does not threaten others in the exercise of their own rights nor hinder them in the fulfillment of their duties.
Sound structure and operation of government are necessary for meeting this challenge. John adds that it is impossible to de-termine exactly the most suitable form of government, but he does list some requirements, such as a charter of human rights as part of the countrys law.
Pope John expands his focus again, now considering the re-lationships among the nations. Peace on Earth also affirms the foundation of natural law as a guide for these relations, here fo-cusing on truth, justice, solidarity and liberty.
In his discussion of truth, John concentrates on the truth that all countries are by nature equal in dignity. In the context of coloni-alism and post-colonial exploita-tion, John emphasises that each country has the right to existence and to the means for develop-ment.
Those countries with advanced levels of economic development must not try to take advantage of poorer countries.
Justice implies the recogni-tion of countries mutual rights
6 JUSTICE MAGAZINE
and duties, similar to the deli-cate balance that exists between persons. Countries have the duty to respect the rights of other countries. Disagreements must be settled not by violence but by reasonable investigation, discus-sion and reconciliation.
Truth and justice are best pursued in solidarity, that is, in mutual co-operation