Pope Francis

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Apr 4 2024

During his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis examines the second cardinal virtue of justice, noting that being righteous leads us toward God, and that justice is fundamental for peaceful coexistence in society.

“Without justice, there is no peace.”

Pope Francis made this point during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday in a cloudy St. Peter’s Square.

This week, the Pope continued his catechetical series on vices and virtues. After months dedicated to the vices, he recently transitioned to discussing virtue, so far focusing on prudence, then patience, and now, justice.

The Catechism describes justice, the second of the cardinal virtues, the Pope recalled, as “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour” (No. 1807).

The Pope stressed that the virtue is not only one to be practiced by individuals, but it is, above all, a social virtue, for it is directed toward creating communities in which each person is treated in accordance with his or her innate dignity. 

Given this, the Holy Father suggested that justice is the basis of peace. 

Fundamental for peaceful coexistence in society

Justice, the Pope reaffirmed, is fundamental for peaceful coexistence in society.

“A world without laws respecting rights,” he warned, “would be a world in which it is impossible to live; it would resemble a jungle.”

Without justice, the Pope said, there is no peace, and “where justice is not respected, conflicts arise.” “Without justice,” the Holy Father cautioned, “the law of the prevalence of the strong over the weak is entrenched.”

Characterizes daily lives

Underscoring that justice is a virtue that is applicable on both a large and small scale, the Pope clarified that it regards “not only the courtroom,” but also “the ethics that characterize our daily lives.”

Explaining that justice establishes sincere relations with others, the Pope said, “The righteous person is upright, simple and straightforward,”  and “does not wear masks.” Rather, the Holy Father reflected, he presents himself “for what he is and speaks the truth.”

Someone who is righteous, the Pope said, has an attitude of gratitude, realizing that we were loved first by God, and are not worthy, and therefore, inspired by “feeling indebted,” shows love to his or her neighbour.

The righteous person

The Pope went on to examine several characteristics of those who are righteous.

“The righteous person,” he said, “reveres laws and respects them, knowing that they constitute a barrier protecting the defenceless from the tyranny of the powerful,” and “does not think only of his own individual wellbeing, but desires the good of society as a whole.”

The Pope suggested the upright person does not give in to the temptation to think only of himself and of taking care of his own affairs, “however legitimate they may be, as if they were the only thing that exists in the world.”

“The virtue of justice makes it clear – and places this need in the heart – that there can be no true good for oneself,” he said, “if there is not also the good of all.”

Antidote to corruption

They all keep watch over his own behaviour, so that it is not harmful to others, the Pope said, noting, “if he makes a mistake, he apologizes. In some situations, he goes so far as to sacrifice a personal good to make it available to the community.

In addition, the Pope said, “he loves responsibility and is exemplary in promoting legality.”

Calling justice “the antidote to corruption,” the Pope insisted, “how important it is to educate people, especially the young, in the culture of legality,” to prevent corruption and illegality.

Upright people pursuing righteousness

The righteous person, the Holy Father “shuns harmful behaviour such as slander, perjury, fraud, usury, mockery, and dishonesty,” and, “keeps his word.”

Pope Francis concluded by saying, we need, more than ever, men and women who pursue justice, as he suggested that being “just” will “make us happy.” – Vatican News