Social Sciences Academy Final Report

«‘Pacem in Terris’ was a breath of fresh air for the social doctrine of the Church»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2012 ( Here is the final communiqué from the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The group met at the Vatican last Friday through Tuesday.

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On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Pacem in Terris we have chosen to devote a session of our Academy to the study of the contribution of this major document to the social doctrine of the Church. Published between the first and second sessions of the Second Vatican Council, the encyclical of Blessed John XXIII falls within the framework of the renewal of the Church’s social thinking which that Council aimed at promoting, in particular in its constitution Gaudium et spes, on the Church and the world.

At the time the topic of peace was extremely relevant, as it still is. In 1963, in the midst of the Cold War and in a severe international crisis, the encyclical was addressed to «all men of good will», sending a powerful message of hope above all ideological and religious divisions. The voice of the Church rose on the ground of our common humanity, appealing to the consciences of all human beings in the name of their common nature. Humanity was invited to rethink its structures of economic, political and cultural collaboration on the basis of the universal principles of «freedom, truth, love and justice» (cf. PT 35).

In the wake of the great encyclicals of Leo XIII and Pius XI, a few years after the encyclical Mater et MagistraPacem in Terris was a breath of fresh air for the social doctrine of the Church. In truth, the reason why the encyclical was so favourably received by all milieus, especially within international institutions, was because it touched men so deeply. It was a social encyclical in the fullest sense of the term, an in-depth reflection on man in society, the centre and summit of every social institution.

The encyclical reaffirms very strongly the central thesis of the entire social doctrine of the Church, which is that «each individual man is truly a person. His is a nature, that is endowed with intelligence and free will» (PT9). This is the basis on which the whole social doctrine of the Church is built. The human being mirrors his Creator. Human nature is nothing but the humanity of man, created in the image of God, capable of knowing and loving.

The challenges that men face, be they peace or a just order in economic exchanges, are always of an ethical nature. Pacem in terris well says that «Ordo autem, qui in hominum consortione viget, totus incorporali est natura» (PT 37).

Fifty years after this great encyclical, the international panorama is no longer that of the Cold War, but of a globalised world and a financial and economic crisis affecting many countries. Peace is also in danger where nationalism and religious and racial hatred expose entire societies to violent conflict.

We remark that the encyclical strongly emphasized that the common good – that is to say, «all those social conditions which favour the full development of human personality» (PT 58) – takes on a universal dimension (PTPT 55). It is not possible to identify the common good without reference to what human beings claim on behalf of their very humanity. Man in society is made to live in peace with his neighbours, in justice, truth, love and freedom.

The Catholic Church, for her part, is aware that through the revelation of Christ she knows the truth about man and is therefore duty bound to stand up for the values that are valid for human beings as such, transversally of the various cultures. She makes a distinction between the specificity of her faith and the truths of reason that often derive from faith and which are also accessible to the person as a person regardless of this faith. AsPacem in Terris recognized, a fundamental defense of all the universal human values became positive rules in the declarations on human rights after the Second World War, because, after the errors and horrors of the two World Wars, enlightened people of different areas and cultures recognized their universal validity that is based on their anthropological truths and expressed them in effective rights. Today, the fundamental values of the human being, in which human dignity as such is questioned, are once again being debated. Here, over and above her faith, the Church considers it her duty to defend in our society as a whole the truths and values in which the very dignity of man is at stake.

The demand for truth is probably the most argued over today, while the reference to natural law is ignored in many sectors of society. I hope that our work can help our contemporaries to rediscover the truth of the human being and of the common good, which are the cornerstones of all life in society. In a way, the contribution of the social sciences especially in this Year of the Faith, must be to help the Church find new and perennial truths in the current social context. They should serve as an aid or as preambles of the social doctrine of the Church, of theology and even of faith, to make easy for our contemporaries the path from reason to faith and from faith to reason, as indicated in Fides et ratio. St Thomas Aquinas, who was ahead of his times with his clear distinction and complementarily between faith and reason, wrote that «theology – although all other sciences are related to it in the order of generation, as serving it and as preambles to it – can make use of the principles of all the others, even if they are posterior to it in dignity» (Super Boetium de Trin., q. 2, a. 3 ad 7). Our statutes say that the Academy «offers the Church the elements which she can use in the development of her social doctrine» (art. 1): thus, the Academy tries to collaborate with the Church’s new evangelization programme with a critical sense of research, and a love of truth of sciences and of faith.

Among the questions examined by the members of the Academy were:

– What the «kingdom of God» proclaimed by Jesus means for peace in the world today, with special reference to the Holy Father’s book on Jesus of Nazareth by H.E. Msgr Ladaria.

– The importance of living in truth and the new possibility, offered by the communications revolution, to be more transparent. The question of global governance in light of both Pacem in Terris and Caritas in Veritate, addressed in particular by H.Em. Cardinal Marx.

– Economic globalization and patterns of migration as both causes of friction and possible avenues of cooperation.

– Ecological dimensions of the global order.

– Human rights and democratization, with special attention to the phenomenon of the Arab Springand the emergence of global economic prowess on the part of China, India and the Pacific.

– New information technology as an instrument of peace, including a paper by Jimmy Wales, the creator of Wikipedia.

– The functioning and regulation of financial markets after the economic crisis, with the special contribution of Academicians Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Dr Hans Tietmeyer, former President of the Deutsche Bundesbank. H.E. Msgr Toso also explained the meaning of the recent document of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Towards Reforming the International and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority (

– The challenges of achieving a workable union among European nations, and its global implications.

– The contribution of religion to the search for peace.

Please write to the Aca
demy ( if you are interested in receiving the individual papers and visit our website for the Proceedings of this and of our past meetings.

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