Pope raises status of judges’ group that advocates for social justice

Pope Francis signs a document establishing the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine in this file photo from a meeting in the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences at the Vatican June 4, 2019. To the left of the pope is Roberto Andrés Gallardo, a judge in Buenos Aires, whom Pope Francis named president of the committee when he erected it as an international public association of the faithful. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has erected the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine as an international public association of the faithful to continue its work educating and advocating for respect for human rights, especially of Indigenous and poor people, in courts throughout the Americas.

Announcing his decision Aug. 18, the Vatican said the pope also approved the committee’s creation of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Institute whose purpose, the pope said, would be to promote research and education on the themes of “social rights, migration and colonialism.”

The group began informally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2017 and formally came into being two years later at the Vatican during Pope Francis’ meeting with 120 judges, magistrates and other court officials from North, Central and South America.

The members, Pope Francis said in his talk to them in 2019, are committed to working individually and together “to guarantee that justice and, particularly, social justice, may extend to everyone.”

Local chapters already have been established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Paraguay. New chapters are in the initial stages of formation in other countries.

“In order for a political and economic system to develop healthily,” the pope had told the judges in 2019, “it needs to guarantee that democracy does not exist in name only, but that it can also be shaped into concrete actions that safeguard the dignity of all its inhabitants, according to the mindset of the common good, in an appeal to solidarity and a preferential option for the poor.”

The necessary concrete actions include “the efforts of the highest authorities and, naturally, of judicial powers, in order to bridge the gap between legal recognition and its practice,” the pope had said.

Pope Francis named Roberto Andrés Gallardo, a judge in Buenos Aires, to be the committee’s president. He had served as chairman of the committee since its formation. Ana Inés Algorta Latorre, a federal judge in Porto Alegre, Brazil, was named vice president. Board members come from Colombia, Chile, Peru and the United States, which is represented by Tamila Ipema, who recently retired as a San Diego Superior Court judge.

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