What does “justice and peace” really mean?

People toss the phrase “justice and peace” around.

Biretta tip to Phil Lawler of Catholic World News for a great catch.  He noted something interesting about “justice and peace” in a speech Pope Benedict XVI gave to members of the Italian police force (which I was unlikely to rush to read without Mr. Lawler’s alert).

Mr. Lawler has a breakdown and comments, but here is an excerpt:

The Pope made what might have seemed at first to be a routine remark, encouraging the police officers to work for justice and peace. But he added some depth to that message with a short but pointed commentary on what “justice” and “peace” really mean:

Justice is not a mere human convention. When, in the name of supposed justice, the criteria of utility, profit, and material possession come to dominate, the value and dignity of human beings can be trampled underfoot. Justice is a virtue which guides the human will, prompting us to give others what is due to them by reason of their existence and their actions. Likewise, peace is not the mere absence of war, or the result of man’s actions to avoid conflict; it is, above all, a gift of God which must be implored with faith, and which has the way to its fulfillment in Jesus. True peace must be constructed day after day with compassion, solidarity, fraternity, and collaboration on everyone’s part.

If people want a fuller explication by Benedict of Justice and Peace, read what I think is one of the best documents of his pontificate, his 2006 Message for World Day for Peace.

By the way, Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    Justice is a virtue which guides the human will, prompting us to give others what is due to them by reason of their existence and their actions.

    This just made my day. I have to be careful reading anything regarding Prison Ministry and their informing Catholic about how horrible our justice system is and how the people in” jail are all victims, and that they should be out free in the community”, blah blah blah because it sends me off in fits of venting. While our justice system isn’t perfect, it’s really not as bad as they make it seem. They don’t get the bigger picture, and that most of the people who they are seeing in jail, were once out on probation, but breached their probation orders so many times that finally they had to get a term of imprisonment, or else they are too much of a risk to the community or to themselves and simply can’t be out on their own.

  2. Brad says:

    Without Him we can do nothing; anything we attempt will turn out hopelessly tilted without Him as the foundation and hopelessly collapsed without Him as the capstone.

    But creatures in our pride always think we can create utopia, when all that ever issues forth from us collectively is dystopia. The only thing that “issues forth” from us and is right is the Church, and that’s because Emmanuel founded it and guaranteed it.

    The Lord is justice and peace itself. If we follow Him, He will change us and grant us to be like Him:

    Shepherd of Israel, give ear, Leading Joseph as a flock, Inhabiting the cherubs — shine forth,
    Before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh, Wake up Thy might, and come for our salvation.
    O God, cause us to turn back, And cause Thy face to shine, and we are saved.
    Jehovah, God of Hosts, till when? Thou hast burned against the prayer of Thy people.
    Thou hast caused them to eat bread of tears, And causest them to drink With tears a third time.
    Thou makest us a strife to our neighbors, And our enemies mock at it.
    God of Hosts, turn us back, And cause Thy face to shine, and we are saved.
    A vine out of Egypt Thou dost bring, Thou dost cast out nations, and plantest it.
    Thou hast looked before it, and dost root it, And it filleth the land,
    Covered have been hills [with] its shadow, And its boughs [are] cedars of God.
    It sendeth forth its branches unto the sea, And unto the river its sucklings.
    Why hast Thou broken down its hedges, And all passing by the way have plucked it?
    A boar out of the forest doth waste it, And a wild beast of the fields consumeth it.
    God of Hosts, turn back, we beseech Thee, Look from heaven, and see, and inspect this vine,
    And the root that Thy right hand planted, And the branch Thou madest strong for Thee,
    Burnt with fire — cut down, From the rebuke of Thy face they perish.
    Let Thy hand be on the man of Thy right hand, On the son of man Thou hast strengthened for Thyself.
    And we do not go back from Thee, Thou dost revive us, and in Thy name we call.
    O Jehovah, God of Hosts, turn us back, Cause Thy face to shine, and we are saved!

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  4. Ed the Roman says:

    I am reminded that Frather Bryce Ibley, of the late blog A Saintly Salmagundi, sponsored Peace and Justice Film Nights at the North American College, usually featuring something from the Dirty Harris or Death Wish franchises.

  5. Ed the Roman says:

    Sibley. Oops.

  6. JordanH says:

    I’m reminded of something important I learned from Fr. Pacwa on a radio program some years ago. The Hebrew word Shalom, which we translate as Peace, does not mean only absence of aggression or tranquility, it also implies wholeness and perfection, that we have a state of security because of our proper relationships to ourselves, our family, our society, our leaders and, of course, God. It can be translated to well-being or health just as easily as to our word “Peace”.

    Somebody has done a pretty good job of explaining this in Wikipedia:


    This is the context upon which Christ spoke about Peace. Whenever the word Peace is used in Scripture or Liturgy, I try and recall this deeper meaning of the word.

  7. PostCatholic says:

    I rather like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on this topic: “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

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