Pope Francis on Gaza conflict: ‘Without justice, there is no peace’

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square gathered for his weekly general audience on April 3, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2024 / 09:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis during his general audience on Wednesday deplored the recent killing of humanitarian workers in the Gaza Strip, with the Holy Father renewing his appeal for an immediate cease-fire amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

The pope buttressed his plea with a catechesis focused on the virtue of justice, noting that it is the building block for a well-ordered society premised upon the rule of law. 

“I express deep regret for the volunteers killed while distributing food aid in Gaza,” the pope said to the 25,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square on an overcast Wednesday morning. 

Pope Francis greets a young girl in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on April 3, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Seven volunteers from the nonprofit World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli strike on Monday while traveling in a “deconflicted zone” after delivering 100 tons of food aid to a town in central Gaza. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “tragic,” suggesting that the Israel Defense Forces “unintentionally struck innocent people in the Gaza Strip.” 

Pope Francis on Wednesday reiterated his regular call for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip so that the “exhausted and suffering civilian population be allowed access to humanitarian aid.” The civilian death toll continues to mount in the beleaguered zone with reportedly nearly 33,000 deaths.

The pope also turned his attention to the ongoing war in “tormented” Ukraine. At one point Francis set down the text of his address to hold up a rosary and a copy of the New Testament that belonged to a slain 23-year-old Ukranian soldier named Oleksandr.

“This 23-year-old boy died in Avdiïvka, in the war. He left a life ahead of him,” the pope said. “I would like to have a little silence at this moment, everyone, thinking of this boy and of many others like him who died in this madness of war. War always destroys! Let us think of them and pray.”

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on April 3, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Against the backdrop of these parallel conflicts, the pope framed his reflection on the virtue of justice, observing that it forms the basis of a well-ordered civil society that is built upon the rule of law — a principle of governance premised on the impartial application of legal norms for all citizens, institutions, and leaders. 

“Without justice, there is no peace,” Pope Francis said. “Indeed, if justice is not respected, conflicts arise. Without justice, the law of the prevalence of the strong over the weak is entrenched.” 

The pope stressed that justice is as a critical underpinning for the common good and the management of civil society, noting: “It is the virtue of law that seeks to regulate the relations between people equitably.” 

“A world without laws,” without justice  — and the corollary virtues of “benevolence, respect, gratitude, affability, and honesty” — would “be a world in which it is impossible to live,” the pope said.

“The righteous person reveres laws and respects them, knowing that they constitute a barrier protecting the defenseless from the tyranny of the powerful,” the pope expressed. “The righteous person does not think only of his own individual well-being but desires the good of society as a whole.” 

The pope defined the characteristics of the “righteous person” in part as one who “desires an orderly society.”

A young girl embraces Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 3, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“He desires an orderly society, where people give luster to the office they hold, and not the other way around. He abhors recommendations and does not trade favors. He loves responsibility and is exemplary in promoting legality,” the pope continued. 

The pope stressed the importance of imparting the virtue of justice into young people so as to build a “culture of legality.”

“It is the way to prevent the cancer of corruption and to eliminate criminality, removing the ground from beneath it.”

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