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Justice

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on the Cardinal Virtues
General Audience, Wednesday 8 November 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In these first audiences when I have the joy of being with you, who come here from Rome, from Italy and from so many other countries, I desire, as I said on 25th October, to continue to develop the themes set by John Paul I, my predecessor. He wanted to speak not only about the three theological virtues - faith, hope and charity - but also about the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. He saw in these seven virtues like seven lamps of the Christian life. Having been called by God to eternity, he was only able to speak about the three principal ones: faith, hope and charity, which illuminate the entire life of a/the Christian. In meeting with you to reflect
upon the cardinal virtues in the spirit of my late Predecessor, I his unworthy successor wish in a certain sense to light the other lamps at his tomb.

2. Today it falls to me to talk/speak about justice. It is perhaps well that this is the theme of the first catechesis in the month of November. Indeed, this month leads us to fix our gaze on the life of each/every man, and at the same time on the life of all humanity, from/in the perspective of final justice. We are all, in some way, aware that, in the transience of this world, it is not possible to realise the full measure of justice. Perhaps the words so often heard: "There is no justice in this world" are the fruit of a too easy simplification. However, there is equally in them a principle of profound truth. Justice is, in a certain way, greater than man, than the dimensions of his earthly life, than the possibilities of establishing in this life fully just relations among men, environments, societies and social groups, nations and so on. Each/Every man lives and dies with a certain sensation/feeling/sense of insatiability for justice, since the world is not able to satisfy fully/to the end a being created in the image of God, neither in the depth/s of his person nor in the various aspects of his human life. And thus, through this hunger for justice, man opens himself God who "is justice itself". Jesus expressed this in the Sermon on the Mount in a very clear and concise way, saying: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied." (Mt 5, 6).

3. Having
before our eyes this evangelical meaning/sense of justice, we must consider it at the same time as the fundamental dimension of human life on earth: the life of man, of society, of humanity. This is the ethical dimension. Justice is the fundamental Principle of the existence and the coexistence of men, as well as of human communities, of societies and peoples. Furthermore, justice is the principle of the existence of the Church, as (the) People of God, and the principle of coexistence of the Church and the various social structures, in particular of the state, as well as of international organizations. In this wide and differentiated terrain, man and humanity continually seek justice: this is a perennial process and it is a task of supreme importance.

According to different relationships and different aspects, justice has obtained, through/over the centuries, more appropriate definitions. From here/Hence the concept of justice: communicative, distributive, legal and social. All this testifies how much
justice has a fundamental significance  for the moral order among men, in social and international relations. It can be said that the very meaning of man's existence on earth is linked to justice. To define correctly "how much/what is due" to each one from all and at the same time to all from each one, "that which is due" (debitum) to man by man in different systems and relationships — to define, and above all to realise — is a great thing, through which each/every man lives and, thanks to which, his life has a meaning.

Therefore, during the centuries of human existence on earth,
there remains a continuous effort and a continuous struggle to order with justice the whole of social life in its various aspects. The multiple programmes and the activity, sometimes reformative, of various trends and systems, need to be looked at with respect. At the same time, it needs to be kept in mind that it is not here foremost a question of systems, but of justice and of man. It cannot be man for the system, but the system must be for man. Therefore man needs to be defended from the rigidification of the system. I am thinking of social, economic, political and cultural systems which must be sensitive/sensible to man, to his integral good, which must be capable of reforming themselves, their own structures according to that which/what the full truth about man demands. From this point of view, it is necessary to evaluate the great effort of our times, which tends/aims to define and consolidate "the rights of man" in the life of today's humanity, of peoples, and of States.

The Church of our century remains in continual dialogue on the great front of the contemporary world, as testified by numerous encyclicals of the Popes and the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. The current Pope will certainly have to return repeatedly to these topics. In today's brief exposition, I have limited myself to
only pointing out this vast and differentiated terrain.

4. It is therefore necessary that each of us be able to live in a context of justice and, even more, that each of us must be just and act justly in regard to those near us and those far away, to the community, to the society of which one is a member... and in regard to God.

Justice has many references and many forms. There is also a form of justice that regards what man "owes" God. This is a major/main, vast theme by itself alone. I will not develop it now, although I cannot refrain/abstain from indicating it.

Let us stop/give our attention, meanwhile, to men. Christ left us the commandment of love of neighbour. In this commandment is also enclosed everything
that concerns justice. There can not be love without justice. Love "surpasses" justice, but, at the same time it finds its verification in justice. Even a father and a mother, loving their own child, must be just with him. If justice falters, love also is in danger.

To be just means to give each one that which/what is due/owed to him. This concerns temporal goods, of a material nature. The best example here can be remuneration for work or the so-called right to the fruits of one's own work or of one's own land. However/But to man is due besides/furthermore/also his good name, respect, consideration, the fame/reputation that he has merited/deserved. The more we know a man, the more his personality, his character, his intellect and his heart are revealed to us. And the more we render account/realize — and we must render account/realize! — with what criterion to "measure him" and what it means to be just with/towards him.

Therefore it is necessary continually to deepen our knowledge of justice. It is not a theoretical science. It is virtue, it is capacity of the human spirit, of the human will and also of the heart. Moreover it is necessary to pray so as to be just and know how to be just.

We cannot forget the words of Our Lord: "The amount that you measure out is the amount you will be given" (Mt 7, 2).

The just man, the man of "just measure".
That we may all be so!
That we may all strive constantly to become so!
My blessing to everyone/all."