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Friday, February 1, 2013
Conclusion of the second national congress on Communion and Law with a network of workers from the legal system: alternative sanctions against environmental crime; ‘adoption’ for citizens held without public defense were only a few of the projects presented.

A new legal thinking and practical application runs that have succeeded. This is what was presented at the three-day gathering in Mariapolis Ginetta, near to San Paulo, Brazil on January 25-27, 2013. The meeting included 180 lawyers, judges, public judicial ministers, public ministers, public defenders, probation officers, public administration workers, and teachers from all over Brazil.

The numerous experiences that were related corroborated and confirmed the effects of fraternity and its potential. There was the ‘adoption of citizens held without public defence that was carried out in Pernambuco within the framework of criminal law. Here teachers and students offered assistance to detainees who had financial problems. There was the application of alternative penal measures for environmental crimes in the Amazon, through work for the environment that has had the effect of reducing recurrences. There was the work of the core research team of the Centre of Law and Society at the Federal University of Santa Catarina for training in law and the promotion of peaceful conflict resolution through dialogue and reconciliation. Family mediation and defence for the weakest members of society, through the interpretation of the law was also achieved.

Throughout the congress proceedings the many students present were given ample opportunity to voice concerns, questions, discoveries, share experiences and, above all, present their hopes and expectations for a human formation that involves fraternity. At the opening of the congress there was a message from Maria Voce, who is president of the Focolare Movement, a lawyer and among the first supporters of Communion and Law which is an expression of the Focolare’s dialogue with the legal culture. After reminding everyone that “when you live love towards others you respect every law, you interpret the law and you apply it in justice,” she proposed – after decades in which individual rights were held up as the “path to equality” – it was time for a reassessment of our duties since, “without respect for them our relationships are less than correct.” Duties call to mind our responsibility for each other as individuals and as community. This helps to maintain and strengthen the bonds of society.    

In this time of crisis and change fraternity taken as a legal category was shown through the work of the conference to be a lens that highlights and brings about something new. Fraternity involves a turnaround, a reminder to the justice system of the individual human person behind each face. It leads beyond a subjective individual right and opens one to a vision of humankind as “us”. It does not reduce Law to a mere production of norms, but sees it as a tool for healing broken relationships. As Cardinal Odilo Schrerer, Archbishop of San Paulo put it, on the afternoon of the 26th January: [Fraternity is] a proposal of “such great interest, of enormous social importance, crucial for society, culture and civilisation.” He went on to say: “We need to continue digging for the gold so that we can offer this gold to all.”

Those who attended the congress return to their homelands with the mission of spreading the experience they lived here, and the commitments they have made demonstrate this. Other congresses are planned for the University of Santa Caterina and Marilia (SP), in the Brazilia Sergipe Tribunals, in the cities of Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Manaus, as well as the formation of a group of regular gatherings for delving further into the research and praxis.

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