Pope Tells Italian Judges That Their Power Requires Prudence

Says This Especially Is True for Judges With Firm Personal Opinions and ‘Ideological Convictions’

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Pope Francis met today with Italy’s Supreme Council of Magistrates, first apologizing for canceling their meeting last week when he didn’t feel well.

The Holy Father met with the Italian judiciary’s self-governing body just after noon today at the Vatican. He stressed the importance of their work, saying it puts them in a powerful position, and, above all, requires prudence.

Francis said that of all possible qualities a judge must possess, the “dominant one” needed is prudence.The Pope clarified that this virtue has a more active dimension than some may think, for it leads one «to ponder with serenity the reasons for laws,” and recognize that facts, not opinions, “must be the basis of judgment.”

He warned that if one has a strong character, with deep personal views, and “ideological convictions,» such individuals will need even more prudence.

“There is no shortage of valuable lessons and models to inspire you,” the Pope suggested.

He told them to model themselves after the exemplary witness offered by lay Christian faithful, who, as judges, were “loyal to institutions, open to dialogue, firm and courageous in defending justice and the dignity of the human person.”

Since court decisions “not only affect the rights and property of citizens, but relate to their very existence,” Francis said that a judge, “at every level, must possess various intellectual and psychological traits, including morality and reliability. This, he said, is needed given the task entrusted to them, namely “to serve their country,” which is “aimed at the smooth functioning of a vital sector of social life.”

“This puts you in a position of particular importance,” he said, as “society entrusts to you” this assignment in which you are to “to maintain impartiality,» «to discern with prudence and objectivity,» basing decision only on the right rules of law, and «especially to respond with unfailing consciousness that is based on fundamental values.”

To those who engage in this work with a “clear conscience and deep sense of civic and legal responsibility,” the Pope expressed his respect and encouragement.  

He closed, praying that the Lord, “the righteous Judge and Father of mercy,” enlighten their lives and sustain them. (D.C.L.)

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