Praying for Peace

Peace is a cornerstone of every society.

In 1963, Saint Pope John XXIII released an encyclical called ‘Pacem in Terris’ (Peace on earth). This encyclical is still important in 2024. 

It was released at a time when many people were very frightened: nuclear weapons were a constant threat and only the year before the Cuban Missile Crisis had seen the world at the brink of nuclear war. During that crisis, Pope John was able to reach out to the US President JF Kennedy and Soviet Chairman Nikita Kruschev. He asked them both to exercise the greatest of restraint and to do whatever was possible to reduce the terrible tension. Later that year, Pope John said on radio: “Hear the anguished cry which rises to heaven from every corner of the earth, from innocent children to old men, from the people in cities and to villages: Peace! Peace!”

In Pacem in Terris’, he does not just address the clergy and the Catholic world (which was the normal way of doing things at that point), but he also wrote it to “all people of good will.” He wanted the world to read it and change… 

The Pope explains in the encyclical that conflicts “should not be resolved by recourse to arms, but rather by negotiation“. He further emphasises the importance of respect of human rights as an essential consequence of the Christian understanding of men. He clearly establishes “that every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life.”

This encyclical was his last and Pope John died on 3 June 1963, but the letter is just as important to read in 2024 as it was then. 

Pope John Paul II remembered the letter well when he said in 2003: “Pope John XXIII called the entire world to a nobler vision of public life and public authority, even as he boldly challenged the world to think beyond its present state of disorder to new forms of international order commensurate with human dignity.”

Yet here we are again in a frightening situation across the world – even though there are so many more important things to worry about instead of war: global warming, the environment, poverty, hunger… 

Let us pray that peaceful solutions can be found, especially as the threat of nuclear war and a wider war is here again…Here is the prayer of Saint Pope John Paul II:

Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations.

Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all the children who suffer, when people put their faith in weapons and war.

Hear my voice, when I beg you to instil into the hearts of all human beings, the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice and the joy of fellowship.

Hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and in every period of history, who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace.

Hear my voice, and grant insight and strength, so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice, to need with the sharing of self, to war with peace.

O God, hear my voice and grant unto the world Your everlasting peace. Amen.

Saint Pope John XXIII, pray for us; Saint Pope John Paul II, pray for us; Saint Francis, patron saint of peace, pray for us

Matthew Betts

Weekly Reflections

Steps on the Journey - weekly Reflections from Carmel
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