VATICAN CITY (CNS) — One of the greatest threats to democracy is the normalization of social injustice and economic inequality, which remain largely ignored until those most affected rise up in protest and are subsequently labeled as dangerous troublemakers, Pope Francis said.

The poor and vulnerable are often met with indifference by those in power, the pope said June 4 at a Vatican meeting of judges from North, Central and South America.

While technology offers “well-being and innumerable pleasures for a happy minority,” the pope said, thousands of poor people do not even have decent housing.

“A political-economic system, for its healthy development, needs to guarantee that democracy is not only nominal, but that it can be expressed in concrete actions that watch over the dignity of all its inhabitants under the logic of the common good, in a call to solidarity and a preferential option for the poor,” he said.

The pope spoke at the conclusion of a June 3-4 “Pan-American Judges’ Summit,” which was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. Reflecting on the theme, “Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine,” the event focused on solutions to combat inequality and to guarantee people the right to “tierra, techo y trabajo” (“land, housing and work”).

He thanked the participants for their work in defending the rights of all people, especially the most vulnerable, adding that the judges “help states to not renounce their most exalted and primary function: to look after the well-being of their people.”

The growing lack of concern for social rights, often regarded by some “doctrinarians” as “old, unfashionable and contributing nothing to society” is a cause for concern, the pope told the judges.

“Injustice and the lack of tangible and concrete opportunities,” particularly after “so much analysis incapable of walking in another’s feet — and I say feet, not shoes because in many cases those people don’t have any — is also a form of generating violence: silent but it is violence nonetheless,” the pope said.

The “soul of our people is at stake,” he told the judges.

Members of the judiciary, he said, have a crucial part to play in promoting or maintaining social justice, especially in the “defense or prioritization of social rights above other kinds of interests.”

“You have an essential role,” the pope said. “Allow me to tell you that you are also poets; you are social poets when you are not afraid to be protagonists in the transformation of the judicial system based on courage, on justice and on the primacy of human dignity,” the pope said.