Peace and human rights in the nuclear age (the encyclical and the speech of 1963)

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Sandra A. Yocum


This thesis examines Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris and President John F. Kennedy's Commencement Address at American University. Both documents were produced in the spring of 1963 by two leaders who would leave the world stage that same year. This thesis examines these documents in the light of their historical setting and what they mean to humanity in the 21st century. Pacem in Terris and the Commencement Address at American University are two documents that provide perspective that resonates with the present, and provides a reminder of how elusive peace is today. Pacem in Terris is the cornerstone for Catholic social justice on peace and human rights. President Kennedy's Commencement Address at American University, but for a few phrases, is largely forgotten. The nuclear age, gave urgency to Pope John XIII to make cooperation a priority among nations with the publication of Pacem in Terris. The significance of my research is to show that it is possible to commit to a vision that will lead to a peace that is solid yet flexible, to meet the challenges before humanity.


John XXIII, Pope, 1881-1963. Pacem in terris, Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963. Commencement address at American University (June 10, 1963), Peace-building Religious aspects Catholic Church, Nuclear warfare Religious aspects Catholic Church, Peace (Philosophy) History 20th century

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