Vatican Policy in a Revolutionary World

June 19, 1963

Report Outline
Liberalizing Influence of Pope John
Popes of Rome and Temporal Problems
American Relations with the Vatican

Liberalizing Influence of Pope John

Speculation Over Policies of the New Pope

Election of a successor to John XXIII, the “Pope of Unity,” is awaited with keen interest in Christian and Communist countries alike. The Pope's death on June 3, terminating a reign of four and one-half years, came at a time of ferment in the Roman Catholic Church. Believing that it was better to stress what unites rather than what divides mankind, the late pontiff softened the Vatican's stern attitudes toward Protestantism and toward communism. It has been said that Pope John's brief but extraordinarily eventful reign brought the Counter-reformation to an end.

Now the world is wondering whether the next occupant of the Chair of St. Peter will carry on the progressive policies of Pope John or revert to the conservative position of previous pontiffs. The most important decision facing the new Pope concerns the ecumenical council which convened in Rome last Oct. 11. Under canon law, an ecumenical council is automatically suspended by the death of a Pope. It is therefore conceivable that the new pontiff will postpone the second session of the council or reorganize its various committees. Outright termination is considered unlikely; the forces of change unleashed by Pope John are thought to be too powerful for containment.

Pope John's Encyclical on Economic Questions

Pope John's philosophy was summed up in two major encyclical letters, Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) and Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), both of which were praised by non-Catholics as well as by Catholics. Mater et Magistra, dated May 15, 1961, was the third in a series of papal encyclicals on social and economic questions. The first, issued in 1891, was the Rerum Novarum (Of New Things), in which Leo XIII affirmed the right of workers to organize; the second, in 1931, was the Quadragesimo Anno (40th Anniversary), in which Pius XI urged that wage earners be “made sharers in … the ownership, or the management, or the profits” of the companies for which they worked.

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