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Pope reflects on God’s mercy and justice

February 03, 2016

Continuing his Wednesday reflections on mercy, Pope Francis devoted his February 3 general audience to God’s mercy and justice.

“The Sacred Scriptures present God as infinite mercy, but also as perfect justice,” he said to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, in the words of the official English-language synthesis of his remarks. “When we think of justice, we think of its legal administration, which seeks retribution and exacts a penalty.”

“Such legal justice does not conquer evil, but simply stems its tide,” he continued. “The Bible presents true justice as a process which avoids a tribunal. It foresees the offended person going directly to the guilty party to invite them to conversion, by helping them to see the evil they have done, and by appealing to their conscience. In this way, the guilty person is able to see their wrong and be open to the forgiveness offered.”

The Pope added:

This is how families forgive, how spouses and children show their love. This is not always easy, however; it requires that we be ready to forgive and desire always the salvation of those who offend us.

This is God’s justice. He does not seek our condemnation, but our salvation. By making us see the wrong we have done, the Father helps us to recognize our need for his mercy revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s justice is his mercy. As God’s children, may we be open to his divine mercy, and readily and generously share it with our brothers and sisters.


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 06, 2016 5:48 PM ET USA

    My reading of Church history suggests that this is precisely what the Church Inquisitorial tribunals were established to do. They were to offer an alternate path, a path of penance, conversion, and true discipleship to those convicted of crimes against the state and against the Church. They were to operate through mercy and to be impartial. Abuses occurred, and popes reacted against those that were brought to their attention. Far more defendants were acquitted than convicted by Church tribunals.