The Second Vatican Council had proposed the creation of a body of the universal Church whose role would be "to stimulate the Catholic Community to foster progress in needy regions and social justice on the international scene". It was in reply to this request that Pope Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission "Justitia et Pax" by a Motu Proprio dated 6 January 1967 (Catholicam Christi Ecclesiam).
Two months later, in Populorum Progressio, Paul VI succinctly stated of the new body that "its name, which is also its programme, is Justice and Peace" (No. 5). Gaudium et Spes and this Encyclical, which "in a certain way... applies the teaching of the Council", were the founding texts and points of reference for this new body.
After a ten-year experimental period, Paul VI gave the Commission its definitive status with the Motu Proprio Iustitiam et Pacem of 10 December 1976. When the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 28 June 1988 reorganized the Roman Curia, Pope John Paul II changed its name from Commission to Pontifical Council and reconfirmed the general lines of its work.