June 15, 1990
POPE TO AUSTRIAN JUDGES
Law must defend life, sacredness of Sunday
On 15 June the Holy Father received the judges of the provincial
court of appeals from the Austrian Stryian region in Graz. After
welcoming them to Rome and the Vatican, the Pope spoke briefly to the judges
about their role in society, particularly regarding the legal protection of life
and the observance of the Lord's Day.
Your professional position and role in regard to society's responsibility
make you constantly more and more aware how crucial it is today for the laity to
be conscious of their specific task in public life. In the Apostolic Exhortation
Christifideles Laici I therefore also emphasized that "for the lay faithful,
to be present and active in the world is not only an anthropological and
sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological
reality as well. In fact, in their situation in the world God manifests his plan
and communicates to them their particular vocation" (n. 15).
In your profession it is your constant task to help secure the rights
regarding the sacrosanct dignity of the human person. "The dignity of the person
is the most precious possession of an individual. As a result, the value of one
person transcends all the material world" (Christilideles Laici, n. 37).
Thus the human person cannot be considered or treated as an object, and that
holds true from the very beginning of his or her existence.
Therefore protection of unborn life must be understood from this
anthropological and philosophical point of departure. It is not only a question
of theology or a matter for the Church. In reality, it is a painful
contradiction that in a period when people are standing up so much for the
protection of the weaker and oppressed, this protection is denied to those who
are precisely least capable of protecting themselves. The Austrian bishops,
moreover, indicated this in their recently published pastoral letter on social
concerns, along with the emerging social questions, which will certainly be of
great concern to you, distinguished members of the provincial court of appeals,
in your future work.
Today's social upheavals are in no way limited to labor and capital. Many
more entirely new problems have emerged, which require an urgent solution. In
this category are the various forms of "new poverty" with all their
implications, marginalization, the growing number of categories of the elderly,
as well as problems concerning nature and the environment.
A further concern is presented by the preservation and restoration of Sunday,
which is increasingly threatened by both business and the recreation industry.
This should be seen not only from a religious perspective, but also as a
universal cultural value. Our society is running the risk of not appreciating
this cultural value because of material considerations.
Following the breakdown of the Marxist-Leninist ideology, Europe's spiritual
and cultural renewal is of fundamental importance for the entire continent.
Legislation and the administration of justice have a decisive contribution to
make in laying the foundations for allowing the value system which has been
formed by Christianity to be seen as capable of bearing the load.
In order that you may courageously and confidently fulfill your noble task as
well as the legal expectations which society will place on you in the future, I
cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.