Vatican City — Officials dealing with law and order must firmly uphold the law while at the same time respecting human rights and dignity, Pope Francis said.
Public officials are called to exercise "professionalism and your humanity, your knowledge and your prudence without discouragement or pessimism, knowing, however, that you are not faced with abstract matters but with concrete lives of men and women with their problems and hopes," he said.
The pope spoke Feb. 6 to Angelino Alfano, Italy's interior minister, and a group of prefects, who represent the interior ministry in Italy's provinces and have special competence in matters dealing with public order.
Francis recognized the increasing demands on the public officials given the large numbers of immigrants flowing into Italy, often fleeing violent conflicts in their homelands.
As officials deal with immigration, which often reaches an "emergency" situation, and other tasks, their job demands "a correct application of norms that guarantee, together with fidelity to the requirements of the law and other regulations in force, the scrupulous respect of fundamental rights of every human person," he said.
The work must be guided by "the indispensible framework" of obedience to the law, attention to human needs and confidence in public institutions.
However, today's culture suffers from a "crisis of authority" -- both in the public and private spheres -- with enormous consequences, especially in education. Some of the causes of the crisis, he said include a declining willingness to obey authority, listen and be patient, the pope said.
The true goal of exercising authority is to achieve "the common good," and such authority is exemplified when power is service, modeled after Jesus Christ who came to serve others, he said.
"The more citizens perceive that established powers are generously aimed at trying to offer answers to their needs and safeguard their rights, the more they will be willing to embrace directives and possess a diligent and orderly spirit of collaboration and respect," the pope said.
The pope praised the positive and fruitful collaboration between the Italian prefects, dioceses and parishes, saying such relationships needed to be "affirmed, enhanced and deepened."