Pacem in Terris, ##60-66

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Reading for Module A, 7.2.4 (##60-64) and Module B, 3.3.2 (##60-66)

Excerpt from Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (1963)

Responsibilities of the Public Authority, and Rights and Duties of Individuals

60 It is agreed that in our time the common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are acknowledged, respected, coordinated with other rights, defended and promoted, so that in this way each one may more easily carry out his duties. For “to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the fulfillment of his duties, should be the chief duty of every public authority.” (45)1

61 This means that, if any government does not acknowledge the rights of man or violates them, it not only fails in its duty, but its orders completely lack juridical force. (46)2

Reconciliation and Protection of Rights and Duties of Individuals

62 One of the fundamental duties of civil authorities, therefore, is to coordinate social relations in such fashion that the exercise of one man’s rights does not threaten others in the exercise of their own rights nor hinder them in the fulfillment of their duties. Finally, the rights of all should be effectively safeguarded and, if they have been violated, completely restored. (47)3

Duty of Promoting the Rights of Individuals

63 It is also demanded by the common good that civil authorities should make earnest efforts to bring about a situation in which individual citizens can easily exercise their rights and fulfill their duties as well. For experience has taught us that, unless these authorities take suitable action with regard to economic, political and cultural matters, inequalities between the citizens tend to become more and more widespread, especially in the modern world, and as a result human rights are rendered totally ineffective and the fulfillment of duties is compromised.

64 It is therefore necessary that the administration give wholehearted and careful attention to the social as well as to the economic progress of the citizens, and to the development, in keeping with the development of the productive system, of such essential services as the building of roads, transportation, communications, water supply, housing, public health, education, facilitation of the practice of religion, and recreational facilities. It is necessary also that governments make efforts to see that insurance systems are made available to the citizens, so that, in case of misfortune or increased family responsibilities, no person will be without the necessary means to maintain a decent standard of living. The government should make similarly effective efforts to see that those who are able to work can find employment in keeping with their aptitudes, and that each worker receives a wage in keeping with the laws of justice and equity. It should be equally the concern of civil authorities to ensure that workers be allowed their proper responsibility in the work undertaken in industrial organization, and to facilitate the establishment of intermediate groups which will make social life richer and more effective. Finally, it should be possible for all the citizens to share as far as they are able in their country’s cultural advantages.

Harmonious Relations Between Public Authority’s Two Forms of Intervention

65 The common good requires that civil authorities maintain a careful balance between coordinating and protecting the rights of the citizens, on the one hand, and promoting them, on the other. It should not happen that certain individuals or social groups derive special advantage from the fact that their rights have received preferential protection. Nor should it happen that governments in seeking to protect these rights, become obstacles to their full expression and free use. “For this principle must always be retained: that State activity in the economic field, no matter what its breadth or depth may be, ought not to be exercised in such a way as to curtail an individuals freedom of personal initiative. Rather it should work to expand that freedom as much as possible by the effective protection of the essential personal rights of each and every individual.” (48)4

66 The same principle should inspire the various steps which governments take in order to make it possible for the citizens more easily to exercise their rights and fulfill their duties in every sector of social life.

Source: Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, translation issued by the US Bishops (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1963), accessible (20 Dec. 2013) at: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/index3.htm.  This link takes you to a long list of Church teaching documents. Go down to ‘Encyclicals’, then to John XXIII, where you will see Pacem in Terris.  After opening the contents page of this, scroll down to locate #60.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….


  1. 45. Cf. Radio Message of Pius XII, Pentecost, June 1, 1941, A.A.S. XXXIII, 1941, p. 200. 

  2. 46. Cf. Encycl. Mit brennender Sorge of Pius XI, A.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 159; and Encycl. Divini Redemptoris, A.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 79; and Radio Message of Pius XII, Christmas Eve, 1942, A.A.S. XXXV, 1943, pp. 9-24. 

  3. 47. Cf. Encycl. Divini Redemptoris of Pius XI, A.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 81; and Radio Message of Pius XII, Christmas Eve, 1942, A.A.S. XXXV, 1943, pp. 9-24. 

  4. 48. Encycl. Mater et Magistra of John XXIII, A.A.S. LIII, 1961, p. 415. 

Go to Top