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Archbishop: legal professionals vital, must care for people seeking justice


Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau has reminded members of the judiciary and the legal profession that their judicial activity must be activated by care for people and with that preferential option for the weak, the vulnerable and those on the margins of society.

The Archbishop put forward this view in his homily for the annual Red Mass, Sunday, January 8, 2023, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

The Red Mass is celebrated on the Sunday prior to the second Wednesday of the month of January.

It is the occasion when the Church invokes the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon members of the judiciary and the legal profession. It is also a time for asking the Holy Spirit to shower them with wisdom and discernment, which, Archbishop Pinder said, “are so necessary for maintaining integrity in the conduct of your professional duties.”

Many in society, the Archbishop observed, view justice one dimensionally as punitive or retributive. “You cannot! You and I are mandated by Scripture to: ‘Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute’ [Psalm 82:3].”

Speaking to those gathered at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Archbishop Pinder reminded, “know that yours is a very special profession. You provide a vital service to our community.”

The word ‘justice’ and the need for it appears in the scriptures over 300 times, said the Archbishop. He outlined that the Book of Deuteronomy supports this when, in the context of the Exodus experience, it says: “In all the communities which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes to administer true justice for the people.”

The Archbishop commented, “because of the great importance of your work, you are commanded to hold to the highest standards, and so Deuteronomy continues: ‘You must not distort justice: you shall not show partiality; you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes even of the wise and twists the words even of the just,’”  [Deut 16:18–19].

As The Bahamas prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence Monday, July 10, the Archbishop outlined several serious matters before them that cry out for mitigating legislation and institutional support for those who seek justice.

Among them, he highlighted issues that have languished in “the desert of prejudice” which require urgent attention because they negatively impact many lives. He referred to matters of marital rape, or the issue of equality of citizenship for the offspring of Bahamian women and men.

“We need to deal with the issue of immigration in its various dimensions. This is a fitting occasion to give recognition to immigrants who have settled here and made significant contributions to building this nation,” Archbishop Pinder said.

He beseeched the professionals, “When dispensing justice, the court must be fair to all persons even if it is difficult and requires a strong condemnation of wrongdoing even if the wrongdoer is cloaked in authority.”

Equality before the law, Archbishop Pinder emphasised, is and must be accorded to all regardless of  race, creed, personal disability or sexual orientation.

He hoped that as they engage deliberations to shape the nation’s future, they will challenge the tendency among them to rely solely on Government to solve their ills.

Rather, Archbishop Pinder said, “we need to remember that nation-building is a corporate responsibility. Each citizen must, as it were, move an oar to drive the ship of state forward.”

Government, he said, bears a huge responsibility and obligation. But so too do those mediating institutions, those intermediate structures like the family, the Church, professional associations and even one’s circle of friends.

“These are the structures which stand between the individual, private citizen and the large public institution,” Archbishop Pinder said, adding that this is the arena where individuals find meaning in life and where their values are formed, nurtured, encouraged, and supported. “This is an important piece of our social reality which we ought not to forget,” the Archbishop said.

To this end, he said it is his prayer for the members of the legal profession, that in fulfilment of their duties as those who serve the community in the administration of justice, “you should be guided by the Light of the Holy Spirit in all your efforts and deliberations, for the good of our Nation and the glory of God.”