Courage needed to seek truth, levy sanctions, pope tells Vatican judges

Pope Francis greets Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican City State court, during an audience at the Vatican March 2, 2024, marking the opening of a new judicial year for Vatican City State. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Holy Spirit sparks the inner outrage and courage needed to confront injustice and unacceptable situations, and to try to change them, Pope Francis said.

"With admiration, we see this courage in so many men and women who experience very difficult ordeals: think of the victims of wars or those who are subjected to continuous human rights violations, including many persecuted Christians," he said in a written speech for the opening of a new judicial year for Vatican City State.

The pope greeted those attending the audience at the Vatican March 2, but he had an aide read his prepared text, explaining he had bronchitis. He has been experiencing "flu-like symptoms" since Feb. 24, according to the Vatican.

In his speech to the judges and other personnel working with the city-state's justice system, the pope wrote that when he follows events dealing with the administration of justice, he thinks of the virtue of courage.

However, the pope's text did not mention any specific case, nor did the speech given by Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican prosecutor. The biggest case on the court's docket for the past several years reached a milestone in mid-December when Cardinal Angelo Becciu and five other people were found guilty of financial malfeasance and sentenced to jail time. Attorneys for the defendants said their clients would appeal.

For those who work in the justice system, Pope Francis wrote, "courage is needed to fully pursue rigorously ascertaining the truth, remembering that justice is always an act of charity, an opportunity for fraternal correction that is meant to help the other recognize his or her error."

Courage is needed when serious and scandalous behaviors must be sanctioned and "all the more so when they occur within the Christian community," he added. And courage is needed while being subjected to criticism when trying to ensure due process.

For Christians, he wrote, when this virtue is combined with fortitude, it "ensures perseverance in the pursuit of the good and makes one capable of facing hardship."

"Courage contains a humble strength that is supported by faith and God's closeness," he wrote. "This courage disorients the corrupt and puts them, as it were, in a corner with their closed and hardened hearts."

"Personal courage is always needed in order to face different situations even in well-organized, well-regulated and institutionally supported societies," the pope wrote.

"Without this healthy boldness, one risks giving in to resignation and ends up overlooking many small and large abuses," he wrote.

"Those who are courageous do not aim for their own protagonism, but for solidarity with their brothers and sisters who bear the burden of their fears and weaknesses," the pope wrote.

In the face of injustice, "the Spirit gives us the strength not to resign ourselves, arouses in us outrage and courage: outrage in the face of these unacceptable realities and the courage to try to change them," he wrote.

Finally, he wrote, "courage is needed to request in prayer that the light of the Holy Spirit will always illuminate the discernment necessary to arrive at the outcome of a just judgment."

"Discernment is done 'on our knees,' imploring the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we can arrive at decisions that move in the direction of the good of individuals and the entire church community," he wrote.


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