"THE document that inspired the convocation is one of the great encyclicals of the century. Unusually long for a papal pronouncement—more than 15,000 words—Pacem in Terris was issued by John XXIII on April 11, 1963, less than two months before his death. It was the last of his eight encyclicals, the first in history addressed not only to the bishops and laity of the Roman Catholic Church but to "all men of good will."

What the Pope said to the world is not in itself radical or revolution ary; many of the ideas put forward by John had been articulated by...

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