Santiago Legarre, Guest Contributor

Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon was a student at the University of Chicago in 1963 when Pope John XXIII published his encyclical Pacem in Terris. On the night of April 4, 2013 she showed a yellowish, “original” copy of the document to a surprised audience at the University of Chicago. She had purchased it for 50 cents only days after its publication—a momentous time that she recalled with visible emotion. She believed that the encyclical on establishing universal peace on earth had received a world-wide positive reaction. “Even the New York Times liked it,” she added.

Glendon’s speech was part of the remarkable opening session of yet another conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pacem in Terris. Organized by the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Notre Dame Law School and The Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago, the event took place in Chicago on April 4 and 5, 2013—the first day at the Max Palevsky Cinema of the University of Chicago and the second day at a downtown hotel. Notre Dame professor Paolo Carozza, director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, provided the opening remarks.In the meantime, professor Doug Cassel introduced the event back on Notre Dame’s campus, where the law school provided a live webcast.

An address by Roland Minnerath, Archbishop of Dijon, France, preceded the opening panel, which also included professors Joseph Weiler and Russell Hittinger. Weiler, who teaches at New York University Law School, is widely known in more recent times for his active involvement in the Lautsi case, in which the European Court of Human Rights accepted his expert view that the presence of crosses and crucifixes in Italian classrooms does not infringe on any of the human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Weiler, a notable Jewish legal scholar, spoke comfortably on Catholic social doctrine. The preparatory work for his path-breaking book, A Christian Europe, led him to read all of the papal encyclicals of the 20th century—a sweet task, he expressed, as he invited his (likely) mostly Catholic audience to join him. He concluded that his favorite document is Pacem in Terris.

Hittinger, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and a professor at the University of Tulsa, urged the public to read the encyclical. Hittinger is currently working on a book on the evolution of Catholic social theory and doctrine during the 19th and 20th centuries.

A highlight of the conference was the presence of two cardinals—and not just any cardinals. Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, who offered the dinner’s  initial remarks at the University of Chicago’s Quadrangle Club, is the cardinal proto-deacon who announced the name of the new pope. His voice during his Chicago speech sounded the same as when we heard him utter the word “Francesco” from St. Peter’s balcony. On the second day of the conference, Cardinal Tauran celebrated his 70th birthday. He told a group of us after lunch that he had received a call from his office in Rome, where he presides over the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to let him know that Pope Francis himself had rung to greet him and that the pope wished to meet upon his return

The Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, was also present at the conference; he actively participated and hardly missed any of the sessions. In addition, he celebrated a Mass for the conference participants at St. James Chapel, Quigley Center, at 7 a.m. on Friday. Perhaps the early time, coupled with the conference’s typical late hours, resulted in a small turn out for an outstanding, first-hand explanation of the conclave. In his homily, Cardinal George explained the overwhelming task of the electors: to turn the keys of the kingdom over to a new successor of Peter. During the conclave the electors guard the keys as they exercise their choice for the next pope with freedom.

The Chicago conference to celebrate Pacem in Terris gathered many other remarkable speakers, including Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago, and Dan Philpott, professor of political science and peace studies at Notre Dame. Around 100 participants gathered from all around the country, including a significant Notre Dame contingent. An interesting array from several different departments,  the Notre Dame participants, like the attendees at large, comprised many divergent ideological viewpoints. Still, as  the title of the encyclical letter reflects, a commendable peace spread over the magnificent event.

Santiago Legarre is a visiting professor at the law school and a professor of law at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina. Contact him at