Vatican City, 17 June 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the members of the High Council for the Italian Magistrature, to whom he expressed his esteem for their work which “aims at the good functioning of a sector that is vital for social coexistence”. He also apologised for not having received them yesterday as scheduled, explaining that “in the mid-morning I felt unwell and had a fever, so I had to cancel all my appointments. I am sorry for this”.
The ethical aspect of the work of magistrates was the first point in his brief address, and highlighted that as in all countries, there are legal norms intended to protect their freedom and independence to carry out their important and delicate task with all the necessary guarantees … responding adequately to the role that society has conferred upon them and maintaining an irrefutable impartiality”.
The independence of the magistrate and his aim, justice, “require a careful and punctual application of the law”, he continued. “The certainty of the law and the balance of the various powers in a democratic society are summarised in the principle of legality, over which the magistrate presides. The judge is responsible for decisions that affect not only the rights and property of citizens, but which have consequences for their very existence”.
The Pope listed some of the intellectual, psychological and moral qualities that all representatives of the magistrature must possess, and which offer a guarantee of reliability, giving special emphasis to prudence, which “is not a virtue because it means staying put: 'I'm careful, I don't move', no! It is a virtue of governance, a virtue for moving ahead”, a virtue that enables one “to weigh with serenity the reason of law and fact that must be at the base of any judgement. One is more prudent when one has a heightened inner equilibrium, and is able to control the impulses of one's own character, one's own personal views, one's own ideological standpoints”.
“Italian society expects much of the magistrature”, he remarked, “especially in the current context characterised by the progressive erosion of our heritage of values and the evolution of democratic structures”. He urged the magistrates not to let down the legitimate expectations of the people, and always to make efforts to be “an example of moral integrity for all of society”.
Finally, he recalled some illustrious magistrates, such as Vittorio Bachelet, who led the High Council of the Magistrature through times of great difficulty, and who fell victim to terrorism during the “years of lead”, the period of social and political unrest in Italy between the 1960s and 1980s, and Rosario Livatino, killed by the Mafia, whose cause for beatification has been opened. “They offered exemplary witness to the style typical of the faithful lay Christian: loyal to institutions, open to dialogue, and firm and courageous in their defence of justice and the dignity of the human person”.