VATICAN CITY — The role of the police and the military are to serve their country by promoting the common good, fighting injustice and defending the weakest members of society, Pope Francis told members of the Italian Carabinieri.
The pope and thousands of officers and their family members gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 16 to mark the 80th anniversary of the execution by the Nazis of Carabinieri Deputy Brigadier Salvo D’Acquisto, who claimed responsibility for the accidental deaths of two German soldiers when the Nazis were about to execute 22 civilians who truthfully said they knew nothing about a plot to kill the soldiers.
D’Acquisto was 22 years old when he was shot by a firing squad.
Pope Francis told members of the Carabinieri, a branch of the Italian military specialized in police work, to draw inspiration from the example of D’Acquisto, who was motivated by love and concern for the poor at a time when “the world was at war, racial persecution raged in Europe and the logic of hatred seemed to prevail.”
“While we live in a time contaminated by individualism and intolerance toward others, as well as by the exacerbation of so many forms of violence and hatred that we see in our cities, his witness delivers a message charged with the power of love,” the pope said.
Police officers’ “service of justice and legality,” he said, “finds its reason and its ultimate end in love.”
“Justice, in fact, does not aim simply at imposing punishments on those who have done wrong, but at restoring people in the name of respect and the common good,” the pope said. “In this sense, your mission is great. I would like to say that you Carabinieri are called upon not only to do your duty by enforcing regulations and procedures, but to make society more just and human.”
Like D’Acquisto, he said, they must be “servants of the state and of the common good, who fight injustice, defend the weakest and offer a sense of protection to our cities.”
And he offered special encouragement to those who work “in difficult contexts, where justice is often trampled underfoot, called upon to fight against all kinds of illegality, against organized crime and against a sense of impunity that is sometimes unfortunately entrenched — against the Mafia mentality.”
“Never be discouraged, never give in to the temptation to think that evil is stronger, that there is never an end to the worst, and that your commitment is pointless,” the pope told them.