Righteous people work for the good of all, pope says

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Pope Audience Justice
Pope Francis waves to visitors as he begins his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 3, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While giving each person his or her due is fundamental for justice, the virtue of justice is not concentrated on the individual in isolation but on ensuring the common good of all, Pope Francis said.

Justice “is represented allegorically by scales, because it aims to ‘even the score’ between people, especially when they risk being distorted by some imbalance,” the pope said April 3 at his weekly general audience.

In St. Peter’s Square, still decorated with thousands of flowers from Easter, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about virtues and vices.

Justice is related to law, which should seek “to regulate relations between people equitably” and to ensure the dignity of each person is respected, he said.

Prelates line up to greet Pope Francis after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 3, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Without justice

Laws also make it possible for people to coexist, he said. Without them, the world “would resemble a jungle.”

A respect for laws prevents “the cancer of corruption” and weakens the capacity for criminality, he added.

“Indeed, if justice is not respected, conflicts arise,” the pope said. “Without justice, the law of the prevalence of the strong over the weak is entrenched. And this isn’t right.”

Pope Francis rides in the popemobile past Easter flowers during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 3, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Other virtues are also needed

Pope Francis said the just person “returns what he has borrowed,” and gives just wages to all his or her workers.

But, he said, to achieve justice other virtues also are needed, “such as benevolence, respect, gratitude, affability and honesty — virtues that contribute to a good coexistence between people.”

People who live the virtue of justice are righteous, the pope said. They avoid “half-truths, double-talk intended to deceive one’s neighbor,” and rather are honest and straightforward.

“The words ‘thank you’ are often on their lips,” he said, because righteous people know that “no matter how generous we strive to be, we remain indebted to our neighbor. If we love, it is also because we have been loved first.”

Pope Francis, seated in his wheelchair, smiles at the end of his weekly general audience in Peter’s Square at the Vatican, which still featured Easter flowers April 3, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Righteous people desire “the good of society as a whole,” Pope Francis said, so they do not “give in to the temptation” of thinking only of themselves and their own affairs, “however legitimate they may be, as if they were the only thing that exists in the world.”

“The virtue of justice makes it clear — and places this need in the heart — that there can be no true good for oneself if there is not also the good of all,” he said.

Cindy Wooden

Cindy Wooden is a journalist with Catholic News Service.