God does not want to condemn anybody, but rather seeks the salvation of all people, said Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.
The pope said that God's vision for salvation "goes beyond our small concept of justice" to a place where justice and mercy go hand in hand, seeking the conversion of the guilty, rather than their condemnation.
"It might seem that they are two things that contradict each other," he said, but the contrary is true because "it is precisely God's mercy that brings true justice to fruition."
The reason for this, the pope said, is because "God doesn't seek our condemnation, but our salvation. God doesn't want to condemn anybody," even if they seem to deserve it. "The Lord of mercy wants to save everybody."
The address continues a series of talks the Pontiff has dedicated to exploring divine mercy.
Rather than the retributive justice present in the legal system "that imposes a penalty on the guilty," God's justice is powered by mercy, he said Tuesday.
Legal justice "still does not lead to true justice because it doesn't actually conquer evil but simply contains it," he said. "Rather, it is only by responding to [evil] with the good that evil truly can be overcome."
Biblical justice does not resemble legal justice, and instead is closer to how families engage with conflict, Francis added. The offended party "loves the culprit and wants to salvage the relationship that binds them, not cut off this relationship."
The wronged person might go to the guilty individual "in order to invite him to conversion, to help him to understand that he is doing wrong, to appeal to his conscience."
Through this, the guilty person "can open himself to the forgiveness that the injured party is offering him. And this is beautiful," the pope said.
The challenge, he admitted, is that "it requires that the person who was wronged be ready to forgive and desire the salvation of and what's best for the one who has wronged him."
However, the reciprocal nature of forgiveness and conversion offers hope, because the "evil is no more and the one who was unjust becomes just."
"This is the heart of God, the heart of a father who loves his children and wants them to live rightly and justly and, therefore, to live in fullness and be happy," the pope said.
It is this God, the "father who helps us change our life", that people are seeking when they go to confessional, he concluded. They seek "a father who gives us strength to go on, a father who forgives us in the name of God."
It is the priest's role in confessional to be there "in the place of the father who brings justice with mercy," he said.