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Pope Francis meets with members of the Italian Union of Catholic Jurists Pope Francis meets with members of the Italian Union of Catholic Jurists  (Vatican Media)

Pope to Catholic Jurists: To deny fundamental rights is to deny human dignity

Pope Francis addresses members of the Italian Union of Catholic Jurists, and warns them of the continuous disregard for the dignity of the weakest and calling them to continue along the path of equality and justice.

By Francesca Merlo

Addressing members of the Italian Union of Catholic Jurists, who are meeting in Rome for their 70th National Study Congress, Pope Francis noted that the theme of their congress is one very close to his heart: "The last ones. The legal protection of the weak". 

Our intrinsic call to our faith

The Pope opened by stressing that his eyes and heart are still filled with the experience of his recent Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece.

He explained that when visiting the refugees on the island of Lesbos he recalled that "respect for persons and human rights, especially on the continent that does not fail to promote them in the world, should always be safeguarded, and the dignity of each person should come before everything."

However, he stressed, "how far we are from this respect." The Pope spoke of abuse, violence, negligence and omission, describing them as being constantly on this rise in this culture of discarding. "As Catholic jurists, you are asked to contribute to 'reversing the course', promoting, according to your competences, awareness and a sense of responsibility," said the Pope, explaining that "this is an intrinsic call to our faith."

Protect the weak

More than ever, continued the Pope, "Catholic lawyers are called upon to affirm and protect the rights of the weakest in an economic and social system that pretends to include diversity but in fact systematically excludes those who have no voice."

The Pope spoke specifically of the rights of workers, migrants, the sick, unborn children, the dying and the poorest are increasingly neglected or denied. "To deny fundamental rights, to deny the right to a dignified life, to physical, psychological and spiritual care, to a fair wage, is to deny human dignity," stressed the Pope. 

Pope Francis went on to note that "recognising rights in principle and guaranteeing them in practice, protecting the weakest, is what makes us human." Otherwise, he explained, "we allow ourselves to be dominated by the law of the strongest and give free rein to abuse."

It is for this reason, continued the Pope, that the recognition of the rights of the weakest person does not derive from a government concession." Catholic jurists do not ask for favours on behalf of the poor, but firmly proclaim those rights that derive from the recognition of human dignity, stressed the Pope.

The role of a Catholic jurist

Bringing his address to a close, Pope Francis noted that the tole of the Catholic jurist, in whatever capacity he or she works, as consultant, lawyer or judge, is therefore to contribute to the protection of the human dignity of the weak by affirming their rights."

It is in this way, concluded the Pope, that he or she contributes to the affirmation of human fraternity and not to deface the image of God imprinted in each person.

10 December 2021, 11:33