George Weigel on a 50 Year Old Encyclical

In the course of preparing The End and the Beginning, the second volume of my biography of John Paul II, I was struck by a historical coincidence that isn’t much remarked these days: The opening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962 coincided almost precisely with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Pope John XXIII solemnly opened the council on October 11; national security adviser McGeorge Bundy showed President Kennedy reconnaissance photos of Soviet missile and bomber emplacements in Cuba on October 16; and while the council sorted itself out, the world held its breath during thirteen days at the brink of nuclear war. That shattering experience had two important impacts on the remainder of Pope John’s pontificate: It strengthened the pope’s determination to explore the possibility of a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union and the communist regimes it controlled in east central Europe, and it helped inspire the pope’s 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris, whose very title, “Peace on Earth,” evoked a widely-shared aspiration in the wake of the October 1962 superpower showdown. Read more…

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