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Fratelli Tutti

Fratelli tutti …

Pope Francis signed his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on Saturday 3 October 2020 during a visit to Assisi. The phrase ‘Fratelli Tutti’ is taken from the writings of St. Francis, one of the major inspirations for Pope Francis’ third encyclical, on fraternity and social friendship. The full text of the encyclical, the third of Pope Francis’ pontificate was released on Sunday 4 October, the Feast of Saint Francis of AssisiSee “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship”. 

See also this post from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference contains the full text of the encyclical letter and some useful links and resources: HERE

The Encyclical aims to promote a universal aspiration toward fraternity and social friendship. Beginning with our common membership in the human family, from the  acknowledgement that we are brothers and sisters because we are the children of one Creator, all in the same boat.

The Document on Human Fraternity signed by Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February 2019 is an inspirational influence cited many times in the Encyclical, which opens with  a brief introduction and is then divided into eight chapters. The Encyclical gathers – as the Pope himself explains – many of his statements on fraternity and social friendship, arranged, however, “in  a broader context of reflection” and complemented by “a number of letters, documents” sent to Francis by “many individuals and groups throughout the world” .

Various people from different cultural backgrounds presented Pope Francis’s new Encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” in the Vatican’s new Synod Hall on Sunday.  The following quotations were compiled by Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp in her Vatican News Report See: Vatican News – Highlights from the presentation of ‘Fratelli Tutti’

“Although I had accompanied the Pope and the Imam in the various stages of the journey of Human Fraternity over the last decade, when I read this Encyclical on Fraternity and Social Friendship, I identified a refined taste, an incisive sensibility and an ability to express the themes of human fraternity to the whole world. It is an appeal to concord to a world in discord, as well as a clear message in favour of both individual and collective harmony with the laws of the universe, the world and life. This notion relies on a clear reasoning that is rooted in the truth and is practicable in real life and in the real world.”

– Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam

“There are other ways of naming God. But the message Pope Francis wishes us to hear for this moment is that we are made fully human by what draws us beyond ourselves. What makes this possible is a divine love, open to all, that births, bonds, bridges and endlessly renews. This love cannot be erased or disposed of, and it is the basis of Pope Francis’s call to us with St Francis’s words of loving attention: Fratelli tutti…”.

Professor Anna Rowlands

“The Encyclical shows us that we are all guardians of peace. Institutions have the task to reawaken the ‘architecture of peace’. However, we, normal people, cannot remain on the sidelines. The art of peace is everybody’s task: we must engage every day in daring and creative rebellion against war. If many can make war, all can be artisans of peace.”  […]

As I read Fratelli tutti, I see not only a condemnation of war, but also the hope that peace is possible. I remembered the invitation of John Paul II when he said together with other religious leaders in Assisi, on a glorious day back in 1986: ‘Peace awaits its prophets… its builders… peace is a workshop, open to all and not just to specialists, savants and strategists… it comes about in a thousand little acts in daily life.’ The artisans of peace are men and women of fraternity.”

 – Professor Andrea Riccardi

“I cannot read the Encyclical without emotion, especially chapter eight, “Religions at the Service of Fraternity in Our World.” I have collaborated with Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate, that is, for almost eight years now. I can attest to how much work has been done, even amid undeniable difficulties, including the most recent one, the pandemic caused by COVID-19.”

Interreligious dialogue is truly at the heart of the reflections and actions of Pope Francis. In fact, as Fratelli tutti states, ‘The effort to seek God with a sincere heart, provided it is never sullied by ideological or self-serving aims, helps us recognize one another as travelling companions, truly brothers and sisters’ (FT 274).”

– Cardinal Miguel Ayuso

Some background

In 1931, the social encyclical Quadragesimo anno was published by Pope Pius XI now almost a century ago. It was written as the Great Depression was raging, Benito Mussolini was firmly in control in Italy, and Adolph Hitler was moving inexorably towards power in Germany.

In the encyclical, Pius XI laid out the insufficiencies of both free-market capitalism and socialist communism and tried to sketch a third way, rooted in traditional Catholic social teaching but sensitive to the realities of the time.  “Time will tell what impact Fratelli Tutti may have, but the parallels are striking.  So writes John L. Allen Jr. is the editor of Crux, specializing in coverage of the Vatican and the Catholic Church.

“This is Francis’s third encyclical letter, after Lumen Fidei in 2013 (a text largely prepared under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI) and Laudato Si’ in 2015, and by far his most comprehensive. One has the sense it’s almost this pope’s social and political testament, an encapsulation of his entire papacy in a little over 40,000 words”.

Pope Francis tells us in  paragraph 7 that he began the letter even before the current Covid-19 crisis erupted.

Francis sees a contest between two flawed alternatives: Neo-liberal individualism, and nationalist populism. His “third way” is a social ethic of human fraternity, rooted for Christians in the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan.

The pope’s diagnosis of the internal contradictions of neo-liberalism is especially acute in paragraph 168.

“The marketplace, by itself, cannot resolve every problem, however much we are asked to believe this dogma of neoliberal faith,” the pope writes. “The fragility of world systems in the face of the pandemic has demonstrated that not everything can be resolved by market freedom.”

More than anything else, the specific issues treated in Fratelli Tutti appear to be in service to illustrating an ethic of fraternity, one which begins with rejecting aggression as a means of relating to others – and the tendency to aggression, he believes, has been made significantly worse by the coronavirus and the shift to increasingly “virtual” relationships.

In a nutshell, Francis sees these two great social “pandemics” – privileged individualist indifference and blind populist rage, apparently mutated into even stronger forms by the literal pandemic of the coronavirus – setting the stage for calamity unless some new force arises to counteract them. See full article by John L. Allen Jr., of Crux Now HERE

The influence of St Francis

“Francis inspired these pages,” said Pope Francis about St. Francis of Assisi in the opening section of his new encyclical letter. Recalling that St. Francis inspired the pope to write his last encyclical letter in 2015, “Laudato Sí, on Care for Our Common Home,” Francis situates this current teaching document again within the framework of Franciscan spirituality and theology. He also traveled to Assisi this weekend to commemorate the Feast of St. Francis and officially sign this new encyclical.

The concept of fraternitas

Francis highlights the demands that a spirit of fraternity places on us in relationship to one another in human society. Too often, the pope says, “we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak.” He notes that, “for all the progress we have made, we are still ‘illiterate’ when it comes to accompanying, caring for, and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. We have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly” (Paragraph 64).

St. Francis instructed his followers that living the Christian life according to his distinctive vision basically boiled down to “walking in the footprints of our Lord Jesus Christ,” a phrase that appears throughout his writings. Living like Jesus means prioritizing relationship above all else; it means caring for those in need, regardless of their identity or what affiliations they might have.

Pope Francis lifts this up as not only something reserved for Franciscan friars and sisters, but also for all human beings, who are fundamentally interdependent and connected to one another. How we think of ourselves in relationship to others ought to be governed by this principle of our a priori interrelatedness as sisters and brothers. And the way we form our worldviews, make decisions, engage in the public square, and interact with one another at all levels should be grounded in our inextricable fraternitas with all.

Crossing borders, building bridges

St. Francis is known to have crossed many borders and built many bridges in his time. He intentionally transgressed the social, civil and ecclesial borders of his community to embrace and then live with lepers who had been ostracized from the ordinary life of Assisi. He crossed the border of the Fifth Crusade’s battle to engage in a peaceful encounter and exchange of ideas with the Sultan, despite the vilification of Muslims by the majority of Christian Europe at the time, including and especially by Pope Innocent III. He even moved across the border of species when he sincerely referred to non-human creatures as his “sisters” and “brothers,” recognizing that lines of demarcation between the human and nonhuman are in some ways artificial constructs, given our interdependence on one another and universal reliance on our common source, which is God.

Today Francis calls on all his brothers and sisters, regardless of their religious tradition or nation of origin, to “see things in a new light and to develop new responses” to the challenges before us (Paragraph 128). Among these challenges is the increasing tendency that individuals and nations have to erect borders and walls, literal and figurative ones, which separate, isolate and exclude the most vulnerable in our world. Francis’ consistent critiques throughout the encyclical of consumerism, capitalism, nationalism, xenophobia and other ascendant ideologies of our time also gesture to the importance of bridge building between peoples.

The pope points to love as the necessary ground for our building a “culture of encounter,” which “means that we, as a people, should be passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone” (Paragraph 216).

He speaks throughout Fratelli Tutti of the evils of apathy and indifference, a recurring theme in his preaching and magisterial teaching. These attitudes not only prevent us from the capacity for compassion — the ability to suffer with others in solidarity — but they also promote an individualism that creates separation and prohibits authentic relationship. What results is not only social division, but also tremendous suffering, which is felt most acutely by the poor and vulnerable.

He adds: “Only a social and political culture that readily and ‘gratuitously’ welcomes others will have a future” (Paragraph 141). It is only in the spirit of St. Francis’ fraternitas that such reforms can take place.

Peacemaking and reconciliation

Toward the end of Fratelli Tutti, Francis writes: “In many parts of the world, there is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter” (Paragraph 225). Here he again embodies the wisdom of St. Francis as a promoter of peacemaking and reconciliation.

Similarly, Francis stresses the need for another kind of being in the world, one that is more human, one that returns to this foundational vocation wherein God calls all people to be peacemakers and reconcilers. Returning to the Franciscan principle of fraternitas, the pope invokes the family as a metaphor for reimagining social structures and political engagement. He notes that families regularly have disputes, but the way that healthy families resolve them can be a model for thinking about the bigger picture of human dynamics in society.

Authentic peacemaking requires truth telling and a shared commitment to the good of the other. It also requires recognizing how decisions have consequences — sometimes dramatically negative ones — for “the more vulnerable members of society” (Paragraph 234). He adds:

“Those who work for tranquil social coexistence should never forget that inequality and lack of integral human development make peace impossible” (Paragraph 235).

In the final chapter of the Encyclical, the pope appeals to all religious believers, regardless of their tradition, to be agents of reconciliation, recognizing the fundamental commitment we all have to promote the common good.

See full article on Three Key Franciscan Themes in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ by Daniel P. Horan  in the National Catholic Report (NCR)  HERE

The last lines of the Document are given to two prayers: one “to the Creator” and the other an “Ecumenical Christian Prayer”, so that the heart of mankind may harbour “a spirit of fraternity”.

See From Vatican News – “Fratelli tutti”: long summary of Pope Francis’s Social Encyclical



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