Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has praised Pope John XXIIIâs historic encyclical âPacem in Terrisâ as âa great thing.â
âI would say what struck me about it was how modern it is and how in tune it is with modern thinking,â Wales told CNA in Rome April 27.
Wales is in Rome as a guest of the Vaticanâs Pontifical Council of Social Sciences. From April 27 to May 1, the councilâs 18th plenary session is exploring the legacy of the 1963 encyclical on global peace, which will mark its 50th anniversary next year. Wales, who is not Catholic, read the papal document for the first time last week.
âI thought I better do my homework,â he explained.
âYou have the impression that the Catholic Church is quite old fashioned which it is, of course, in many ways,â said Wales, âbut also that some of the thinking (in the encyclical) is quite up-to-date and quite modern, so I think that is a great thing.â
âPacem in Terris,â whose name means âPeace on Earth,â was published on April 11, 1963. Pope John XXIII wrote it at a time when he knew he was terminally ill, and it is often described as his âlast will and testament.â He died two months after its release.
The documentâs overarching theme is the âtranquility of orderâ in society as a foundation for global peace. The Popeâs reflections were drawn from his re-reading of St. Augustineâs âCity of Godâ in 1942, during the Second World War.
The work had great influence. âPacem in Terrisâ is the only papal encyclical to be published in full by the New York Times.
University of Tulsa professor Russell Hittinger, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, told CNA that the plenary session on the encyclical is âa very good occasionâ to examine the state of the world âto see what John XXIII anticipated, what was left out of the picture and how principles have to be reapplied.â
Jimmy Wales will speak to participants on Monday April 30 on the topic âWikipedia, Free Knowledge and Peace.â He said he is keen to use his address to explore and explain the online encyclopediaâs âconcept of neutrality.â
Anyone can edit Wikipedia articles, but this openness has forced it to develop a way to mediate disputes about facts and interpretations.
âI think one of the most important avenues towards peace is for people to first think about what we do agree upon and how can we characterize our disagreement in a way that at least we agree what we disagree about,â he said.