The pandemic has highlighted what is not working and has shown us that it is necessary to take new steps together, both in small practical aspects and strategic choices.


Beyond the pandemic: law and justice at the service of an inclusive society

A heartfelt greeting to everyone, whom I know and to those I meet for the first time "from a distance". I had the gift of participating in three congresses in Brazil, of knowing a little about your splendid reality, of sharing study and research paths. And today I would like to assure you that I particularly care about what the Brazilian people are experiencing.

Of course, the situation in Brazil is dramatic, though we can say that we are, all together, at the heart of a general health crisis, with infinite implications: first of all the health of people, the sustainability of national health systems, the nationwide and international economic consequences, lifestyles, interpersonal and social relationships.

The COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed health systems in Italy, Spain, many European countries and is now paralyzing other health systems with robust social assistance mechanisms. And in countries where health care is precarious. or completely absent, the challenge is even higher.

Today's drama highlights the equality of human beings: the virus affects rich and poor, but together it highlights inequalities and injustices at national and world level more than ever.

As Pope Francis said, we will come out of this crisis or better or worse.

It is precisely in this time of profound uncertainty and anxiety that we could seize the moment to build something new, different, and better.

It is time to question our consciences and work to rebuild the connections necessary for a healthy social fabric.

What does it mean to get out of the crisis and be better? The pandemic has stopped us. Let us use this stop to look at our society. What comes in evidence today? First, the fragility of many in our community. Conditions of those who suffer, the marginalized, the weakest and most defenceless. Thus, the indigenous peoples, children, the elderly, infringed workers' rights, trampled human rights and ecological issues, etc.

The pandemic highlights inequalities and injustices, which show us that only united can we overcome them. It calls us to give a collective response.

In what way can we come out better? Together. But how?

We could give infinite examples, and since we are among legal operators, the first example that comes to light is the situation of the Courts. Let me take the Italian case. We are witnessing the paralysis of justice, the postponement of trials, the difficulty of accessing the chancelleries, documents, etc. Yet, in which area is it functioning well? Where judges, chancellors, lawyers try new collaborations by mutually taking on the difficulty of the other category. We often say that the process, to reach justice, needs the full cooperation of all parties.

The pandemic has highlighted what is not working and has shown us that it is necessary to take new steps together, both in small practical aspects and strategic choices.

Another example. In Italy, during the first months of the year, various activities completely stopped, while others reduced necessarily. The Government allowed the possibility of laying off workers. Meaning, employees reduced working hours in whole or in part and consequently reducing their salaries by 80%. I assisted some non-profit organizations in their approach to access the redundancy fund as well as the methodology of involving their employees. We agreed not to impose, but to propose, with a personal relationship among everyone. These are moments that often trigger tensions, but on the contrary, the experience was that of a profound sharing of choices between employer and employees, with evident improvement in relationships.


We cannot solve the social, ecological, and scientific problems of this era if we think of each one as an individual. 'We must think of ourselves as a collective to change the world and push the development of history' (H. Alford). We need to place man at the centre and look at him as being in a relationship. And here the law can intervene.

The health crisis highlights equality among all, as we have already said. But it is an equality that does not hide the inequalities.

The need for control (movements, health conditions, etc.) calls into question the freedom of each and the correct ways of exercising it: my freedom is limited by respect for the other, for his right to health.

How to achieve and safeguard effective equality and true freedom today? What can be the key? Again, we find it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): the human family must be placed at the centre, asking every man to act "in a spirit of brotherhood".

Many of you know that for over twenty years jurists from different continents have questioned the possibility of rendering fraternity as a juridical principle, in the interpretation and application of the law. It is a question of combining law and fraternity because as we increasingly discover it, this is the only way to reach justice.

There is a need for us to understand together what it means to apply the rules in protecting the least and the environment, minors, women, indigenous people, workers, consumers, etc. To achieve profound respect for every person and group, to develop a solidarity-based society, where inequalities, yes, fade away. And if ever someone has been left out, that is the brother to be preferred.

We summon the law to dictate the rules for every coexistence-- small family nucleus, interpersonal relationships, societies, nations, peoples, and States.

However, if the primary function of the law is to allow the establishment of relationships that improve the life of a society, and if it acts in a way that these relationships are "fraternal", then society as a whole will benefit from it. Inequalities will vanish, and the freedom of each, while respecting that of others, will be able to reach fullness.

We are facing a challenge. However, we understand through our daily commitment that even a small gesture of solidarity can lead us to a better world.

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