Catholic Peacebuilding conference

Christine Tucker (right) is chief of staff at Catholic Relief Services, a Caritas member, here at a 50th anniversary event for Pacem in Terris.

Joan Rosenhauer of Catholic Relief Services, a Caritas member, here at a 50th anniversary event for Pacem in Terris.

Catholic leaders, academics, and U.S. government officials addressed Catholic peacebuilding and U.S. foreign policy at a major conference, Peacebuilding 2013: Pacem in Terris at 50, April 9-10, at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.  

Fifty years ago, Pacem in terris broke new ground by elaborating an approach to peace and engagement in the world that went beyond merely avoiding violence.  Using human rights as a foundation for a vision of peace that involves authentic development and a just world order, Pacem in terris catalyzed what has become a vibrant and broad engagement in peacebuilding by Catholic actors around the world and at all levels.

In his keynote address, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, issued a call to those present: “The pressing question now is the manner in which everyone of good will may make peacebuilding their own personal practice, rather than leaving it to a few in high office.” He continued, “Proper arrangements between nations and careful observance of others’ rights are essential in this globalized era, but they are not enough. We must also build bridges of true dialogue and true fraternity if we are to build peace.”

Maryann Cusimano Love of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies and the Catholic Peacebuilding Network noted that “the purpose of the conference was to bring together a wide variety of Catholic institutions to commemorate Pacem in terris as a living document that reminds us of the special responsibility we have as Catholics in the United States to ensure that our nation uses its enormous power and influence to be a force for peace around the world.”

Bishop Richard Pates, Chair of the International Justice and Peace Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, emphasized the importance of partnerships with faith-based institutions in developing nations: “Church groups are particularly close to poor communities and are trusted institutions” and, with governments and the private sector, act as a “critical third pillar of social development …. [and] help hold governments accountable and promote reconciliation in torn societies.”

With over 300 participants over the course of two days, the conference included sessions on a range of critical peacebuilding challenges, including nuclear disarmament, reconciliation in politics, development, climate change, conflict resources, migration, the ethics of war, human rights, and international religious freedom. The 40 speakers included Carolyn Woo, President of Catholic Relief Services, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Harvard University; Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator, U.S. AID; Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; Susan Johnson Cook, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, U.S. State Department; and Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., Boston College.

The conference was sponsored by the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services, Pax Christi International, the Sant’Egidio Community in the United States, Trinity Washington University, the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of International Justice and Peace, the United States Institute of Peace, the University of Dayton Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the University of St. Thomas’ (MN) Department of Justice and Peace Studies.

Selected texts from the conference, the program, and videos of session will be available at and here.

For more information:

Gerard Powers, Catholic Peacebuilding Network:

Maryann Cusimano Love, The Catholic University of America Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies:


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