Pope's Address to Meeting of Judges Against Human Trafficking

“I ask the judges to fulfill their vocation and their essential mission: to establish justice, without which there is no order, or sustainable and integral development, or social peace”

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Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave Friday evening to a group of judges and magistrates, gathered by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, for a summit against human trafficking.

I would like to warmly greet you and renew the expression of my esteem for your cooperation and contribution towards human and social progress, a task of which the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is more than capable.
If I’m happy for this contribution and proud of you, it is also in consideration of the noble service you can offer to humanity — both through an understanding of this very present phenomenon of indifference and its extreme forms in the globalized world — as well as the solutions in face of this challenge, seeking to improve the living conditions of the neediest among our brothers and sisters. Following Christ, the Church is called to engage herself, in other words, there is no room for the Enlightenment adage, according to which the Church must not meddle in politics. The Church must meddle in great politics because — I quote Paul VI — “politics is one of the highest forms of love, of charity.” And the Church is also called to be faithful to people, even more so in the case of situations where wounds and dramatic sufferingd are present, and where values, ethics, social sciences and faith are involved; situations in which your testimony as individuals and humanists, together with your own social expertise, is particularly appreciated.
In the course of these recent years there have been many important activities at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, under the vigorous drive of its President, Chancellor and some external collaborators of prestigious reputation, whom I thank from my heart. Activities in defense of the dignity and freedom of men and women of today and, in particular, in the eradication of human trafficking and new forms of slavery, such as forced labor, prostitution, organ trafficking the drug trade and organized crime. As my predecessor Benedict XVI said, and as I myself have affirmed on several occasions, these are real crimes against humanity that should be recognized as such by all religious, political and social leaders, and reflected in national and international laws.
The meeting on December 2, 2014 with the religious leaders of the most influential religions in this globalized world, and the summit on July 21, 2015 with the Mayors of the major cities of the world, have shown the willingness of this Institution in pursuing the eradication of the new forms of slavery. I hold a special memory of these two meetings, as well as of the significant youth seminars, all due to the initiative of the Academy.
Some might think that the Academy should move, rather, in the realm of the pure sciences, of more theoretical considerations. This responds, certainly, to an Enlightenment conception of what an Academy should be. An Academy must have roots, and roots in the concrete, otherwise it runs the risk of fomenting a liquid reflection that vaporizes and comes to nothing. This divorce between the idea and the reality is evidently a past cultural phenomenon, rather of the Enlightenment, but which still has its influence.
Now, inspired by the same motivations, the Academy has brought you together, judges and prosecutors from around the world, with practical experience and wisdom in the eradication of human trafficking, smuggling and organized crime. You have come here representing your colleagues with the praiseworthy aim of making progress in spreading awareness of these scourges and, consequently, manifesting your irreplaceable mission to face the new challenges posed by the globalization of indifference, responding to society’s growing concern and respecting national and international laws. To take charge of one’s own vocation also means to feel and proclaim oneself free — judges and attorneys free from what? From the pressures of governments, free from private institutions and, of course, free from “structures of sin,” of which my predecessor John Paul II spoke, in particular, of the “structure of sin,” free from organized crime. I know that you endure pressures, you endure threats in all this, and I know that to be a judge, an attorney today is to risk one’s skin, and this merits recognition of the courage of those who wish to continue to be free in the exercise of their juridical function. Without this freedom a nation’s judiciary is corrupted and sows corruption. We all know the caricature of justice for these cases, no? Justice with its eyes bandaged, with the bandage falling and covering its mouth.
Fortunately, for the realization of this complex and delicate human and Christian project of freeing humanity from the new slaveries and organized crime, which the Academy has undertaken following my request, we can also count on the important and decisive synergy of the United Nations. There is greater awareness of this, a strong awareness. I am grateful that the representatives of the 193 UN Member States unanimously approved the new Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, Goal 8.7. This reads: “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2015 end child labor in all its forms.” — up to here the resolution. We can well say that now such goals and targets are a moral imperative for all Nations Members of the UN to achieve.
To this end, we must generate a crosscutting wave of “good vibes” to embrace the whole of society from top to bottom and vice versa, from the periphery to the center and back, from leaders to communities, and from villages and public opinion to the key players in society. As the religious, social and civic leaders have realized, achieving this requires that judges too become fully aware of this challenge, feeling the importance of their responsibility towards society, sharing their experiences and best practices and acting together — important, in communion, in community, that they act together — to break down barriers and open new paths of justice to promote human dignity, freedom, responsibility, happiness and, ultimately, peace. Without over-extending the metaphor, we could say that the judge is to justice as the religious leader and the philosopher are to morality, and the ruler  — or any other personalized figure of sovereign power — is to the political. But only in the figure of the judge is justice recognized as the first attribute of society.  And this must be recovered, because the increasing tendency is to liquefy the figure of the judge through the pressures, etcetera that I mentioned earlier. And yet, it is the first attribute of society. It arises in the biblical tradition itself, no? Moses had to institute seventy judges to help him, to judge the cases, the judge to whom one appeals. And also in this process of liquefaction, the forcefulness, the concreteness of the reality affects peoples. In other words, peoples have an entity that gives them consistency, that makes them grow, and carry out their own projects, assume their failures, assume their ideals, but they are also suffering a process of liquefaction, and all that is the concrete consistency of a people tends to be transformed into the mere nominal identity of a citizen, and a people is not the same thing as a group of citizens. The judge is the first attribute of a society of people.
In calling together these judges, the Academy wants nothing more than to cooperate, in the measure of its possibilities, according to the UN mandate. I take this opportunity to thank those Nations that through their Ambassadors to the Holy See have not been indifferent or arbitrarily critical but, on the contrary, have actively collaborated with the Academy to make this summit possible. The Ambassadors that did not feel this necessity, or who washed their hands, or who thought it wasn’t so necessary, we expect at the next meeting.
I ask the judges to fulfill their vocation and their essential mission: to establish justice, without which there is no order, or sustainable and integral development, or social peace. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest social ills of today’s world is corruption at all levels, which weakens any government, participatory democracy and the activity of justice. Judges, you are responsible for executing justice, and I ask you to pay special attention to justice in the field of human trafficking and smuggling and, in face of this and of organized crime, I ask you to take care not to fall into a web of corruption.
When we say “execute justice,” as you well know, we do not mean seeking punishment as an end in itself, but, in the case of penalties, that they be given for the re-education of the wrongdoers in the hope that they can be reintegrated in society, in other words, there is no valid punishment without hope. A punishment shut-in on itself, which leaves no room for hope, is a torture, it’s not a punishment. I base myself also on this to affirm the position of the Church against the death penalty. Of course, a theologian said to me that in the concept of Medieval and Post-Medieval theology, the death penalty had hope: “we hand them over to God.” But times have changed and this is no loner right. Let us leave God to choose the moment … the hope of reintegration in society: “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God Himself pledges to guarantee this” (Saint John Paul II, EV, n.9). And if this delicate connection between justice and mercy applies to those responsible for crimes against humanity as well as to every human being, it is a fortiori true especially for the victims who, as the term suggests, are more passive than active in the exercise of their freedom, having fallen into the trap of the new slave hunters. These victims so often betrayed even in the most intimate and sacred part of themselves, that is to say, in the love they aspire to give and take, and that their families owe them or that their suitors or husbands promise them, who instead end up selling them into the forced labor and prostitution market or the sale of organs.
Judges today are called more than ever to focus on the needs of the victims. The victims are the first who need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society – and their traffickers and executioners must be given no quarter and pursued. The old adage is useless: they are things that have existed since the world is the world. The victims can change and, in fact, we know that their life can change with the help of good judges, of the people that assist them and of the whole of society. We know that not a few of these individuals are lawyers, politicians, brilliant writers or have a successful job serving the common good in a valid way. We know how important it is that each former victim is encouraged to talk about having been a victim as a past experience now valiantly overcome; of being a survivor or, better said, a person with a life of quality, whose dignity has been restored and freedom claimed. And in this matter of reinsertion I would like to transmit an empirical experience. When I go to a city, I like to visit the prisons – I have already visited several – and it’s curious, without detracting from anyone, but as a general impression I have seen that prisons whose Director is a woman are better than those whose Director is a man. This isn’t feminism, it’s curious. In this matter of reinsertion, woman has a special talent, a special touch that, without losing energies, reinserts individuals, locates them again – some attribute it to the root of maternity. But it is curious. I mention it as a personal experience, it is worthwhile to rethink it. And here, in Italy, there is a high percentage of prisons directed by women, many young women, who are respected and treat prisoners well. Another experience I have had is that at the Wednesday Audiences it’s not unusual for a group of recluses to come — from this or that prison –, brought by the male or female directors, to be there. In other words, they are gestures of reinsertion.
You are called to give hope in doing justice. From the widow seeking justice insistently (Luke 18:1-8), to the victims of today, all fuel a desire for justice as hope that the injustice that passes through this world is not final, that it does not have the last word.
Perhaps it may help to apply, according to the characteristics of each country, on every continent and in every legal tradition, the Italian practice of recovering the ill-gotten gains of traffickers and criminals and offering them to society and, concretely, for the reintegration of the victims.  The rehabilitation of the victims and their reinsertion in society, always really possible, is the greatest good we can do to them, to the community and to social peace. Of course, the work is hard, it does not end with the sentence; it ends afterwards by seeking the support, growth, reinsertion and rehabilitation of the victim and of the individual responsible for the suffering.
If there is anything that runs through the evangelical Beatitudes and the protocol of the Divine Judgment with which we will all be judged, according to the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25), it is the issue of justice: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who suffer for justice, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed of my Father are those who treat the neediest and least of my brothers and sisters as myself. They – and here I am referring especially to judges – will have the highest reward: they shall inherit the earth, and they shall be called children of God, they shall see God and enjoy eternity with the Father.
In this spirit, I am encouraged to ask judges, prosecutors and academics to continue their work and carry out, within their own means and with the help of Grace, successful initiatives that honor them in the service of people and of the common good. Thank you very much.
[Original text: Spanish]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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