Pope Francis on Saturday addressed members of the Tribunal of the Vatican City State and other officials concerned with the administration of justice and the protection of law and order. He expressed his confidence in the work of the judicial authorities, and noted that recent financial investigations were prompted by reports originating within the Vatican itself.
The Holy Father offered two main points of reflection in his address. First, he spoke about the Gospel, which teaches us “that the justice proposed by Jesus is not a simple set of rules applied technically, but a disposition of the heart that guides those who have responsibility”. He emphasized that justice must begin within each one, with “our own personal conversion”. This, he said, “is the only justice that generates justice!”
Pope Francis noted, too, that justice must be accompanied by other virtues, especially the other cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, and fortitude. He said that judges, especially, must find answers that combine justice with the higher virtue of mercy – which “is not the suspension of justice but its fulfilment”. He also encouraged them to continue in their commitment “to understand the causes of error, and the fragility of those who have broken the law”.
Reforms an integral part of Church’s ministry
The Pope’s second main point of reflection dealt with “the laws that regulate interpersonal relationships” and “the ethical values” that provide the context for those laws.
He noted the reforms that have brought significant changes to Vatican legislation, motivated by a need for modernization, “but also and above all the need to respect international commitments the Holy See has undertaken on behalf of the Vatican state”.
These commitments, the Pope said, deal primarily with the protection of human persons and social groups. “The main purpose of these reforms”, he continued, “must therefore be inserted within the Church’s mission; indeed, it is an integral and essential part of her ministerial activity”.
Effectiveness and efficiency of enforcement
The recent reforms have brought to light “suspicious financial situations”, he said, which are still under investigation. But he highlighted the fact that the first reports of irregularities came from within the Vatican itself, demonstrating “the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement actions, as required by international standards”.
In particular, Pope Francis noted that the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City “has also distinguished itself for its investigative activity in support of the Office of the Promoter of Justice”.
While praising the work of reform, Pope Francis recognized that all efforts at reform remain dependent on people. “We need, therefore, a particular attitude on the part of the operators, not only intellectually, but also morally and deontologically”, he said. “In this sense, the promotion of justice requires the contribution of the right people”.
Awaiting Divine Justice
Pope Francis concluded his address by reminding those present of the words of Jesus in the Gospel: “By the measure with which you judge, you will be judged”. The Gospel, he said, “reminds us that our attempts at earthly justice always have as their ultimate horizon the encounter with divine justice, that of the Lord which we await. These words should not frighten us, but only encourage us to carry out our duty with seriousness and humility”.