Pope Francis blesses the delegation of European lawyers Pope Francis blesses the delegation of European lawyers  (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis to European lawyers: Be at service of truth and justice

In his address to a delegation of attorneys from Council of Europe member countries, Pope Francis encourages lawyers to uphold the rule of law and to recall that every person has both rights and duties in relation to society.

By Edoardo Giribaldi

On Monday, Pope Francis received a delegation of lawyers from the Council of Europe member countries which are signatories of the Vienna Declaration.

The document, adopted on 11 June 2022, prompted member States of the Council to commit themselves in favor of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

In the current “problematic” European framework affected by "the senseless war in the Ukrainian territory,” the Pope thanked the attorneys for their “important contribution to the promotion of democracy and respect for freedom and human dignity.”

At the service of the human person

Pope Francis noted how these principles might be jeopardized by “fear of civil unrest, acts of violence, the prospect of destabilizing change and the need to act effectively in confronting emergency situations,” resulting in the “temptation to make exceptions or to restrict, at least provisionally, the rule of law in the effort to find easy and immediate solutions.”

"I appreciate your insistence, in one of your proposals, that 'the rule of law should no longer be subject to the slightest exceptions, including in times of crisis'," he said. "For the rule of law stands at the service of the human person and aims to protect the dignity of each, which admits of no exception. It's a principle."

Centrality of the person

The Pope then recalled several passages from his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on 25 November 2014.

At the time, the Holy Father had stressed how “the foundation and the dignity of each human person is to be found in his or her transcendent origin, which thus forbids any violation of that dignity while at the same time demanding, in all human affairs, respect for the centrality of the person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and powers of the moment.”

Pope Francis had also noted the tendency, in today’s society, “to claim more and more individual rights, without taking into account the fact that every human being is part of a social context.”

Confidential communication

In his address on Monday, the Holy Father also retraced a passage from his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, noting how an inexact comprehension and application of the concept of human rights, and their subsequent abuse, could make people prey to: “dictatorships of relativism,” “brands of ahistorical fundamentalism,” “ethical systems lacking kindness and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.”

“[ It is essential that our societies preserve forms of confidential communication in which individuals can express themselves and lay down their burdens.]”

In this regard, Pope Francis traced a parallel between the Seal of Confession in the Church and the space "where a person can tell the truth to his lawyer so that he can help them out" of a certain situation.

Peace and harmony

The Pope also recognized the commitments related to conserving “the Earth, our common home,” and the “willingness to work for the development of a normative framework aimed at protecting the environment.”

"I'm working on a second part of Laudato si' to update the current issues," he added.

Pope Francis encouraged European lawyers to “persevere” in the exercise of their profession, “directed to the service of truth and the justice needed for the advancement of peace in the world and harmony in our society.”

The Holy Father concluded his address by entrusting the delegation to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Yves, patron of lawyers.

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21 August 2023, 11:32