Vatican City, 24 January 2014 (VIS) – “Your ministry, dear judges and employees of the Roman Rota Tribunal … is a service peculiar to the God of Love, who is close to every person. While you perform your judicial duties, do not forget that you are pastors! Behind every plea, every position, every case, there are people who seek justice”.
With these words the Pope addressed the prelate auditors, employees and collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, whom he encountered today for the first time during his pontificate for the opening of the judicial year, recalling that “the legal dimension and the pastoral dimension of ecclesial ministry are not opposed to one another, as both contribute to the aims and the unity of action proper to the Church”.
“Ecclesial judicial activity, which takes the form of service to the truth in justice, has indeed a profoundly pastoral meaning, as it aspires to the pursuit of the good of the faithful and the edification of the Christian community. … Furthermore, dear judges, through your specific ministry you offer a competent contribution to facing emerging pastoral issues”.
Pope Francis went on to briefly outline the profile of the ecclesiastical judge from human, judicial and pastoral perspectives. With regard to the first, the judge is required to demonstrate “a mature humanity, expressed in serenity of judgement and detachment from personal views. Human maturity also includes the capacity to identify with the mentality and legitimate aspirations of the community in which the judge serves. In this way he becomes an interpreter of the animus communitatis which characterises the part of the People of God that is the subject of his work, and is able to practice a form of justice that is not legalistic or abstract, but instead adapted to real needs”.
With regard to the judicial aspect, aside from the juridical and theological prerequisites, in the exercise of his ministry the judge must display “expertise in law, the objectivity of judgement and equity, judging with imperturbable and impartial neutrality. Furthermore, in his work he must be guided by the aim of protecting the truth, with respect for the law, without neglecting the tact and humanity appropriate to a pastor of souls”.
Finally, considering the pastoral profile, “as an expression of the pastoral care of the Pope and the bishops, the judge is required to show not only confirmed competence, but also a genuine spirit of service. He is a servant of justice, called to handle and judge the condition of the faithful who turn to him with trust, in imitation of the Good Shepherd who tends to his injured sheep. For this, he is inspired by pastoral charity; that charity that God has poured into our hearts … and which also constitutes the soul of the role of the ecclesiastical judge”, concluded the Holy Father.