To define and, principally, to realize justice
is not man who is at the service of the system,
Pope John Paul I with his future successor, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła
month of November invites us to bring our attention on the life of each
man and on the life of all humanity, in the perspective of final
all of us are conscious that, in this world, it is impossible to realize
justice in all its dimension. No doubt, the words so often heard,
“there is no justice in this world”, are a bit simplistic. But they
are true. Justice is greater than man, greater than his terrestrial
is difficult for men to establish among themselves, among diverse
milieu, among society and the groups composing it, among nations,
relations just as they would hope for. Each man lives and dies as though
thirsting for justice, because the world is not capable of fully
satisfying a being created in the image of God, neither in the deepest
part of his being, nor in the different aspects of his human life.
thirsting for justice, man aspires to God who is Justice. In the sermon
on the mount, Jesus said it clearly: “Blessed are those who hunger and
thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt. 5,6).
define and realize justice
wandering from this evangelical vision, we must equally consider justice
as a fundamental dimension of human life here below: the life of man, of
society, of humanity. It is the moral dimension. Justice is a
fundamental principle of the existence and the coexistence of men, of
communities, of societies, and of nations.
is also a principle of the existence of the Church, People of God, a
principle of the coexistence of the Church and of various social
structures, in particular of the State, as also international
organizations. On this ground, vast and varied, man and humanity
searches unceasingly for justice: it is a continual process, an
extremely important task. According to the different relations and
situations, justice has received, all along the centuries, definitions
which were more and more appropriate.
the concept of justice: commutative, distributive, legal, and social.
All this shows how justice is fundamental for moral order, among men in
social and international relations. We could say that the meaning itself
of the existence of man on earth is linked to justice.
define correctly what is due to each one on the part of all and to all
on the part of each one, what is due (debitum) to man on the part of
man, everywhere. To define and principally to realize!
is a great thing for which a nation lives, and because of it, its life
at the service of man
have assisted, all along the centuries, to an incessant effort, to a
continual struggle to put more and more justice in our society. We must
consider with respect the numerous programs and reformative systems of
diverse tendencies. But we must become aware that here it is not a
question of systems, but first a question of justice and of man.
It is not man who is at the service of
the system, but the system which must be at the service of man. In
consequence, these systems themselves must guard against becoming hard.
I am thinking of the social, economic, political, and cultural systems
which must be respectful of man, of his integral good, and capable of
rectifying themselves, of rectifying their own structures in adjusting
them to the needs of the full truth concerning man.
this viewpoint, we must grant full value to the effort accomplished in
our days to consolidate the rights of men in the life of humanity, of
peoples and States. The Church of our century is in continual dialogue
with the contemporary world at all levels, as testified by the numerous
encyclicals of the Popes and the doctrine of Vatican Council II. The
actual Pope must return often upon this vast subject which he is only
pointing out at this moment.
of us must be able to live in justice and, moreover, be just and act
with justice concerning those who are close to him, those who are far,
towards the community, society, and... towards God.
the numerous forms of justice, there is one which concerns what man owes
to God. It is a theme, very vast in itself! I will not enlarge upon it
at this time, but I cannot forbear to point it out.
us dwell, meanwhile, on men. Christ left us the commandment of love of
neighbour. This commandment holds all that concerns justice. There can
be no love without justice. Love is over and above justice, but at the
same time, it presupposes justice. Even the father and the mother who
love their child must be just toward him. If justice is unsteady, love
also is threatened.
To be just is to give everyone his
due. This concerns temporal and material goods. Here, the best example
could be the remuneration for work, the right to the fruit of his labour
or his land.
Also, we must render to man respect
and consideration, which are his right.
more we know man, the more he reveals to us his personality, his
character, his intelligence, and his heart. And so we become aware —
and we must become aware — of the criteria by which we must measure
and what it means to be just towards him.
is consequently necessary to constantly deepen our knowledge of justice.
It is not a theoretic science. It is a virtue, a strength of the spirit,
of the will, and of the heart. We must also pray to be just and to know
how to be just. We cannot forget the words of Our Lord: It is the
measure which you use that will be used as a measure for you. A just
man, a man of just measure.
we may all be just! That we
may ever strive to become just!
all, my blessing.
John Paul II
This article was published in the August-September, 2003 issue of “Michael”.