Reflections

The debate, the opinions. An Encyclical that leaves no one indifferent. 

A section dedicated to reflections, comments and analysis following the publication of Pope Francis' Encyclical "Fratelli tutti".

Here it will be possible to find a selection, among the main ones resulting from the debate concerning the Encyclical. 

The content of the reflections does not imply a direct responsibility of the Dicastery, which makes them available to readers. 

The reflections of the Superiors of the Dicastery

Card. Peter K. A. Turkson, Prefect

Brothers and Sisters: From the Same Womb

Card. Peter K. A. Turkson, Prefect

When I was a young lad growing up and studying classical languages, I learned that, in Greek, the words for a brother and a sister meant, etymologically “from the same womb (a-delphos/a-delphē).” This expression has stayed with me and helped me understand several puzzling situations in life. For, if brothers and sisters are united by the fact of their origin from the same womb, then they are united in dignity, united in honour, united in rights, while maintaining differences in attitudes and habits; and the rest of humanity is so constituted – products of wombs, brothers and sisters all of us! This is the message of the beginning chapters of the Bible (Gen.1-4).

         The same beginning chapters of the Bible which describe an ontological communion between brothers and sisters go on to translate this relationship into a brotherly conduct and the function and activity of caring or the exercise of an oversight over each other for their safety and wellbeing. This is what God expected of Cain with the question: “Where is your brother Abel”? But it is also the brotherly conduct and role which Cain rejected with his response: “I do not know: am I my brother’s keeper (shȏmer = שׁוֹמﬧ Gen.4:9). God, however, extends this brotherly conduct and responsibility of the human person also over the earth (creation). Adam was introduced by God into the garden not only to till it. Adam was also to care (שׁמﬧ) for it (Gen.2:15): Adam was, as it were, to behave towards the garden as a brother/sister behaves towards another brother/sister.

         The creation account was written very long, indeed, about two thousand years, before the days of St. Francis of Assisi; but their presentation of brotherly ties between the human person and creation, prepared St. Francis to sing about the elements of creation, as if they are his kin: brother sun, sister moon, in his hymn of creation. Thus, fraternity is like an ontological glue that holds everything created in a bond of care and in a culture of caring.

         These biblical stories and very many similar stories in other cultures make Pope Francis observe: “These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (LS. 70). Indeed, in the introduction of his Encyclical Letter, Laudato sì, Pope Francis speaks of the “conviction that everything in the world is connected” (LS.16), and then goes on to observe that the reality of the interconnectedness of all things is a revealed truth found in the very first chapters of the book of Genesis. Accordingly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches that “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other’ (§ 340).

         To this biological and ontological characterization of our human family and creation, as coming from the same womb, St. Francis of Assisi adds a spiritual basis for the brotherly ties that must exist between all that exists.

         With his spoliation, Francis did not say "no and goodbye" to the world; rather he found himself really saying "hello". He was free -- free to go, free to do, free to be. With no master but Christ, and no possession but his soul, he was free. In his poverty, he found the means to pursue and to live his relationship with all, starting with his religious family, and extending it to Sultans. Thus, it is said that in his religious family, Francis was not a leader. He was a brother; and his followers were a "band of brothers". It appears, then, that for Francis, the only relationship available for one to live in was that of brotherhood; and when this relationship was with everything that existed, as creation of God, then Francis lived in a universal brotherhood with all creation. His belief also in the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God made him see creation as sharing with him the same vocation to the praise of God, the Creator. And so, from a vocation to a universal praise of God, the Creator,[1] Francis derived a vocation to a universal brotherhood.

         The affirmation of the universal brotherhood /sisterhood of the members of the human family , however, needs to reckon with palpable differences. I am from Africa, and many are from Europe and from the Near and Far East, and you can see our differences. If we are physically so different, can we still talk about being one: related by origin? Yes, we can. The womb which makes us all one can be the womb of our parents (Gen.4); but it is also the womb of mother earth, the planet out of which our bodies are drawn and which feeds us (Gen.2-3). We are one because we share a common womb of world culture, which determines what we study and what we pay attention to and how our lives are guided. We share a common womb of history, with all the world wars and everything that has happened, and has brought us to this point. And, lately, we also recognize that we share the common womb of a climate crisis and a healthcare threat and crisis: the covid-19 pandemic.

         We are all, in so many ways, from the same womb. This, then, should lead to a common sense of our human dignity that does not leave anybody behind.[2]

         But in the reality of life, some are left behind along the roadside, left behind in culture, left behind in development, left behind in income, left behind in education. All kinds of experiences separate us and make us unequal and uneven, incurring various types of “human dignity deficits.

         So, let us consider the pressing climate crisis and this pandemic, as wake-up calls to repair the fractures of inequality, negligence, indifference and the throw-away culture that the course of history and the challenges of cultural civilizations have created within the human family. The wisdom of the need for such a repair of fractures we learn from the Old Testament celebration of the Jubilee Year. After fifty (50) years the Jubilee horn sounds and the indebted, enslaved, insolvents etc. are set free and given a new lease of life, “so that there is no poor one in your midst” (Dt.15:5).

         Let us go looking for our brothers and sisters whose humanity and dignity are dimmed and reduced to a flicker by modern day slavery and human trafficking. Let us go looking for our brothers who are discarded and left behind, abandoned or left along the roadside of brothels and domestic slavery.

         Let us go looking for the men and women whose absence makes us feel less whole, as a community, and less wholesome, and bring them all together to make real the unity and the wholesomeness of the human family of God’s creation.

For, we know that God works all things together

for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose!

For those God forknew, He also predestined

to be conformed to the image of His Son,

so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

(Rom.8:28-29).

 

[1] Cf. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Dennis Nolan, Saint Francis: A Life of Joy (NY, Hyperion, 2005)., pg.2.

[2] At the presentation of the SDGs at the Plenary Assembly of the United Nations (September 2015), the Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki.Moon, described the SDGs, as “a human dignity narrative that leaves non one behind”. 

Reflections (PDF files)

Mons. Bruno Marie Duffé, Secretary

Fraternity: A Source Of Inspiration And Of Renewal For Democracy And For Peace

Mons. Bruno Marie Duffé, Secretary

The highly symbolic figure of the "Good Samaritan", who takes care of the wounded and abandoned man on the side of the road, offers Pope Francis' reflection on fraternity an essential reference for thinking about fraternal relations and political life. The second part of the Encyclical "Fratelli tutti" (in particular chapters 5 and 6), in fact, gives politics a decisive place.

It is a question of avoiding that fraternity be restricted to the realm of interpersonal relations. Politics is the place of encounter, dialogue and shared responsibility. It is the very definition of democracy: a space where everyone can express themselves and participate in decision-making, for the common good and justice.

Democracy, as a project and as a political practice, is the vision of this "open" world (cf. chapter 3 of the Encyclical) which goes beyond the "closed" world of individualistic interests alone and considers the other, with its richness and weaknesses.

"There is (also) an aspect of the universal openness of love which is not geographical but existential. There is (also) an aspect of the universal openness of love which is not geographical but existential. It is the daily capacity to widen my circle, to reach those whom I do not spontaneously consider to be part of my centre of interests, even if they are close to me. Moreover, every sister or brother who is suffering, abandoned or ignored by my society, is an existential stranger, even if he or she is a native of the country" (Fratelli tutti, François, 2020, n.97).

The democratic space is the "open place" where meeting is made possible, where words can be spoken and exchanged without fear, where human rights and mutual duties are honoured and updated.

"Social friendship", which is the other name for fraternity, care and benevolence and the search for the right relationship, is not a weak attitude but a strong moral posture, which refuses to disdain the other - the weakest in particular - and which opens up to the construction of a "co-responsibility".

"A better policy, placed at the service of the true common good, is necessary to allow the development of a world community, capable of achieving fraternity from peoples and nations that live in social friendship" (Fratelli tutti, n. 154).

This mutual hospitality, proper to friendship, makes us sensitive to the words of the other, to the respect of our promises and to the need for forgiveness, which allows us not to lock the other - individual, people or community - into a tendentious or truncated image. Hospitality, experienced as reciprocity, sheds light on our international cooperation projects and the challenges of solidarity with migrants and refugees, shattered by war and violence. In this respect, we must be wary of populisms that appropriate and sometimes confiscate popular hope, for power-seeking purposes... Reflection on community belonging cannot be closed on sectarian and exclusive communitarianism. On the contrary, it must magnify the richness of social plurality and the chance of pluralism, which brings into play the diversity of approaches and interpretations.

Above all, the common good, which calls for the happy deployment of talents for the good of the community, must be seen as the condition and the horizon of peace. Seeking peace means taking care of our ties, of the human rights that safeguard the dignity of persons, our memory and our hope.

"To be part of a people is to be part of a common identity, made up of social and cultural ties. And this is not something automatic, quite the contrary: it is a slow, difficult process... towards a common project" (Fratelli tutti, n.158: Extract from a quotation by Antonio Spadaro, Las huellas de un pastor. Una conversación con el Papa Francisco, in: Jorge Maria Bergoglio - Papa Francisco, En tus ojos esta mi palabra. Homilías y discursos de Buenos Aires (1999-2013), Publicaciones Claretianas, Madrid (2017), pp.24-25).

To speak of time and "slow process", about fraternity and political life, is to inscribe oneself in a moral journey that is never satisfied with the current state of the world. It is about a profound transformation of people and institutions. The one cannot evolve without the other. Thus peace must be presented as the aim of "good politics" (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2019), but also as the expression of charity accomplished.

"True charity is capable of integrating all this [privacy, legality, minimum welfare, trade, social justice, political citizenship] in its deployment and must be manifested in interpersonal encounter; it is also capable of reaching out to a brother and sister who are distant, even ignored, through the various resources that the institutions of an organised, free and creative society are able to create" (Fratelli tutti, n. 165).

Charity cannot therefore be reduced to the mere relationship of help and assistance. It is justice, hope and love in action. This, it is easy to understand, concerns local and regional, national, international and world community realities. We are from both a world and a village. In both dimensions (global and local), mutual consideration and the future of peace are at stake.

"Any commitment in this sense becomes a supreme exercise of charity. In fact, an individual can help a person in need, but when he joins with others to create social processes of fraternity and justice for all, he enters 'the field of the greatest charity, political charity' (Pius XI, Discourse to the Italian Catholic University Federation (18 December 1927): L'Osservatore Romano, 23 December 1927) p.3)" (Fratelli tutti, n.180).

Mons. Segundo Tejado Muñoz, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

“CARITAS” in the Encyclical FRATELLI TUTTI

Mons. Segundo Tejado Muñoz, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

In the Encyclical Fratelli tutti, when Pope Francis dwells on the concept of "charity", he starts from the most intimate and profound aspect of love, in the heart of the Church itself. The first Christian communities knew well the meaning of the word charity. In the face of the danger that the Church would give in to the temptation to close herself off and isolate herself, Saint Paul exhorts her rather to love with breadth, overflowing with love "among you and towards all". (1 Tess 3.12). Saint John does the same (Fratelli tutti, 62). This echoes Francis' insistent call in Evangelii Gaudium 23, "The intimacy of the Church with Jesus is an itinerant intimacy, and communion "is essentially a missionary communion". And also, "The evangelising community experiences that the Lord has taken the initiative, has preceded it in love (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), and for this reason it knows how to take the first step, it knows how to take the initiative without fear, to go out to meet, to seek out those far away and to arrive at the crossroads to invite the excluded" (EG, 24).  In Francis, charity is much more than the feeling that moves a person to give alms. It is instead a force that radiates the very love of God.

Charity makes it possible for people's virtues and habits to build a life in common (FT, 91). Sustainability, therefore, depends on charity. And Francis exhorts us to remember the importance of the social dimension of evangelization: "His redemption has a social significance because "God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person, but also the social relationships between people" (EG, 178). The Gospel reveals "the intimate connection between evangelization and human promotion" (EG, 178), and "the indissoluble bond" (EG, 179) between accepting God's saving love and our love for those around us.

Love, made possible by God's grace, inspires our movement outside ourselves, on the other and towards others (FT, 93); and he quotes St. Thomas Aquinas stressing that what lies behind the word "charity" comes from the love for which a given person is pleasing (grateful) and therefore derives the pleasure of pouring some of that love and those gratifications towards it (free). But charity does not remain on an individual level. It necessarily opens up to the social dimension, and "implies an effective path of transformation of history that requires the incorporation of everything: institutions, law, technology, experience, professional contributions, scientific analysis, administrative procedures, and so on" (FT, 164). True charity encapsulates all these elements of attention to the other.

The Good Samaritan also needed an inn to take care of the wounded man. Charity must be able to use all available resources, including those from society. (FT, 165). It is clear that it is necessary to grow a greater "spirituality of fraternity" but, at the same time, that "there is not only one possible way out, one acceptable methodology, one economic recipe that can be applied equally for all". (FT, 165). This reminds Laudato si’: "today we cannot fail to recognise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach, which must integrate justice into discussions on the environment, in order to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (LS, 49).

This also brings a broader vision of political life. Francis writes: "we need a policy that thinks with a broad vision, and that takes a new integral approach, including the different aspects of the crisis in an interdisciplinary dialogue". (LS, 107 & FT, 177). Dwelling on the importance of a forward-looking political life, Francis calls to a kind of love that is inspired by God in the heart of the Christian community, and which can then move towards the other that is outside. In the LS, Francis presents 4 negative examples, in which a short-sighted political vision destroys the bonds of charity that God desires to be established between us. 

The false assumption about the infinite availability of the planet's goods, which leads to "squeezing" it to the limit and beyond the limit, without consequences (LS, 106); the "culture of waste", which considers as irrelevant everything that does not serve personal interests (LS, 122); the economies of scale that dominate the market and lead to the exploitation of workers (LS, 129); and the new biotechnologies that indiscriminately manipulate genetic material (LS, 131-136). The only force capable of reversing this course is charity, and God is the only one powerful enough to counteract this same course. The Church exists to manifest to the world the presence of God and the charity of God. 

Says Francis: "Charity, with its universal dynamism, can build a new world because it is not a sterile feeling, but the best way to achieve effective paths of development for all". (FT, 183). Charity goes beyond irrelevant personal sentimentality, he says referring to Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate, which states that the intimate relationship between charity and truth produces that universality capable of overcoming relativism and building community (FT, 184; cf. CV, 2-4). In this way, we come to understand the concrete reality and the universal dimension of charity as a driving force for development.

Francesco focuses on dimensions of charity that are often overlooked. It is an act of charity to help a poor and suffering person, but it is also an act of charity to help change the social conditions underlying that suffering (FT, 186). This last aspect of charity is at the heart of the spirit of politics and expresses a preferential love for the latter. "Only with a gaze whose horizon is transformed by charity, which leads it to grasp the dignity of the other, are the poor recognised and appreciated in their immense dignity, respected in their own style and culture, and therefore truly integrated into society. Such a gaze is the core of the authentic spirit of politics" (FT, 187). 

In conclusion, John's theological statement, "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8), has a direct and complementary implication both for the person redeemed by Christ and for the identity of the Church as the Bride of Christ. Charity is at the heart of the Church's identity and holds the key to integral human development. The very purpose of religion itself is to spread in the world "the values of goodness, charity and peace" (FT, 285), and this is achieved through charity.

Reflections (PDF files)

The reflections of the Superiors of the Migrants and Refugees Section

Card. Michael Czerny, SJ, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees

“Fratelli tutti” at a glance

Card. Michael Czerny, SJ, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees

The shadows of a closed world (chap. 1) spread over creation, leaving the wounded on the side of the road, and they are put out, discarded. The shadows plunge humanity into confusion, loneliness and emptiness. We find a stranger on the road (chap. 2), wounded. Faced with this reality there are two attitudes: to go ahead or stop; to include or exclude him or her will define the type of person or political, social and religious project we are.

God is universal love, and as long as we are part of that love and share it, we are called to universal brotherhood, which is openness. There are no "others" or "they", there are only "us". We want with God and in God to think and create an open world (chap. 3) without walls, without frontiers, without exclusions, without strangers. That is why we have and want a heart open to the whole world (chap. 4). We live a social friendship, we seek a moral good, a social ethic because we know that we are part of a universal fraternity. We are called to encounter, to solidarity and gratuitousness.

For an open world with an open heart, we must make the best politics (chap. 5). Politics for the common and universal good, politics for and with the people, that is, popular, with social charity that seeks human dignity and is carried out by men and women with political love who integrate the economy into a social, cultural and popular project.

Knowing how to dialogue is the way to open the world and build social friendship (chap. 6); it is the basis for better politics. Dialogue respects, consolidates and seeks the truth; dialogue gives birth to the culture of encounter, that is, encounter becomes a way of life, a passion and a desire. A person which dialogues is kind, recognizes and respects the other.

But it is not enough: we must face the reality of the wounds of disagreement and establish and follow, in their place, paths of reunion (chap. 7). We must heal the wounds and restore peace; we must be bold and start from the truth, from the recognition of historical truth, which is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy, and which is indispensable for the path towards forgiveness and peace. Forgiving does not mean forgetting; conflict on the road to peace is inevitable, but this does not mean that violence is acceptable. That is why war is an unacceptable resource and the death penalty a practice to be eradicated.

 

The different religions of the world recognize the human being as a creature of God, as creatures in a relationship of brotherhood. Religions are called to the service of fraternity in the world (chap. 8). From our openness to the Father of all, we recognize our universal condition as brothers. For Christians, the source of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, from which our actions and commitments are born. This journey of fraternity also has for us a Mother called Mary.

Faced with the wounded in the shadows of a closed world, lying on the side of the road, Pope Francis calls us to make our own and operate the worldwide desire for fraternity, which starts from the recognition that we are all Brothers, all brothers and sisters. 

Reflections (PDF files)

P. Fabio Baggio C.S., Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees

"Fratelli tutti": ideas for the pastoral care of migrants

 P. Fabio Baggio C.S., Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees

The Encyclical Letter "Fratelli tutti" (FT) is dedicated to fraternity and social friendship, which the Holy Father counts among his constant concerns. The close link between these themes and issues related to migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking is highlighted in the introductory words of the document, which explain how Pope Francis wanted to draw inspiration from the example of the Poor Man of Assisi. Saint Francis, in fact, promised himself to walk "alongside the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the discarded, the last" (FT, 2), among whom, as the Pope himself makes clear in the following points, the most vulnerable subjects of human mobility must be counted. Francis of Assisi, moreover, demonstrated a "heart without boundaries, capable of going beyond the distances due to origin, nationality, colour or religion" (Ft, 3), open to foreigners.

Still in the introductory part, Pope Francis underlines how the condition of itinerancy in this world characterizes all human beings, who are "wayfarers made of the same human flesh" (Ft, 8), who can dream together. But this wonderful potential is today opposed by a "culture of walls" (FT, 27), which prevents, even physically, the encounter with people of different cultures.

Observing the frontiers of the contemporary world, there are, unfortunately, many systematic violations of human dignity, caused by political and economic will against migrants and international cooperation (FT, 37). Often migrants, deceived by the illusions of Western culture, become victims of the speculations of traffickers. Their departure impoverishes even more their country of origin, which has often failed to guarantee them the right not to migrate (FT, 38). In the countries of arrival there is a growing political exploitation of the fear of the other and there are again those regrettable episodes of racism and xenophobia that seemed to be past history (FT, 39). 

The Holy Father is convinced that migration is a fundamental element of humanity's future and a clear opportunity to put the human person back at the center (FT, 40). The fear of the other, though natural and instinctive, must not undermine the capacity for encounter that makes us grow as people (FT, 41). "Enlarging the heart to the stranger" becomes, then, an imperative for the growth of all. Sacred Scripture is rich in biblical quotations in this sense (FT, 61). But so are references to the temptation to close oneself off to foreigners, to others, a temptation that has characterized the Church since its beginnings (FT, 62).

According to Pope Francis, the correct attitude of the Christian towards the foreigner - as indeed towards all vulnerable "neighbours" - is well exemplified in the parable of the Good Samaritan (FT, 81). The encounter between the rescuer and the needy leaves no room for ideological manipulation and pushes both protagonists to overcome barriers (FT, 82-83). The Good Samaritan shows a heart capable of identifying with the suffering of the other, beyond differences, and of recognizing Jesus Christ present in his neighbour (FT, 84). It is a recognition that gives the other an infinite dignity, a true encounter with Jesus Christ (FT, 85). But it is also an encounter with humanity beyond the group to which it belongs (FT, 90); it is a coming together that means going beyond national and regional borders to discover oneself part of a community of brothers and sisters who care for one another (FT, 96).

The Holy Father reiterates that the long-term objective is to prevent people from having to emigrate, guaranteeing the right to find at home the conditions to develop fully. But until this is assured, it will be necessary to respect everyone's right to find a place where they can fully develop as a person and as a family, putting into practice four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate (FT, 129). Especially in cases of humanitarian crises, solidarity between peoples must be translated into very concrete actions (FT, 130), which guarantee all human beings a "full citizenship" in this world (FT, 131). But this requires global governance of migration, with medium and long-term projects that go beyond the emergency (FT, 132).

The encounter with the other, with the foreigner, is enriching because it is an encounter with the different, which we do not yet know (FT, 133). It is because the encounter with diversity makes cultures and civilizations grow (FT, 134). It is so because, especially when characterized by free and generous welcome, it makes humanity grow (FT; 139-141). The encounter with the other does not annul the identity of the host but strengthens it and transforms it into a gift (143). Localistic narcissisms hide insecurity and fear towards others (FT, 146). Looking at others one understands oneself better (FT, 147). Identity and culture are dynamic realities that feed on the encounter with the other (FT, 148); the relationship with others is, in fact, constitutively necessary to achieve full human fulfilment (FT, 150). The human family comes before the constitution of national groups (FT, 149).

The importance of the meeting must also be considered from a regional geographical perspective, where the cordial relationship with the neighbour (FT, 151) becomes a convivial relationship with the neighbouring country (FT, 152), which helps to become aware of one's own limits and the inevitable interconnection with others: no isolated nation is capable of ensuring the common good (FT, 153).

The Holy Father also does not miss this opportunity to condemn trafficking in human beings, which should be one of the greatest concerns of a ruler (FT, 188). The slave trade, which has sadly marked past history, unfortunately continues to happen (FT, 248).

Reflections (PDF files)

Online debates and meetings

GCCM-From Laudato Si' to Fratelli Tutti: Caring for Our Common Home as Brothers and Sisters

CLAR-Fratelli Tutti - Ciclo 1 de WEBINAR

Presentación de la encíclica Fratelli Tutti-Universitat Abat Oliba CEU

UISG-Online conversation with Fr. Augusto Zampini regarding "Fratelli tutti"

CLAR-Fratelli Tutti - Ciclo 2 de WEBINAR

FRATELLI TUTTI: lettera enciclica sulla fraternità e l'amicizia sociale

Georgetown University-Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis’ New Encyclical on Human Fraternity and Solidarity

CLAR-Fratelli Tutti - Ciclo 3 de WEBINAR

Presentation of the Russian translation of "Fratelli tutti"

Special Meeting-Fratelli Tutti: How the new Encyclical inspires Caritas work

CLAR-Fratelli Tutti - Ciclo 4 de WEBINAR

WUCWO-UMOFC -International Women's Day "Fratelli Tutti"

Other relevant reflections

Anna Rowlands, Lecturer in Contemporary Catholic Theology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University.

Conference on the Encyclical Letter "Fratelli tutti" of the Holy Father Francis

Anna Rowlands, Lecturer in Contemporary Catholic Theology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University.

The Encyclical Letter Fratelli tutti is about love and attention – the kind of attention that brings a broken and bleeding world back to health. It is a social meditation on the Good Samaritan, who recognises love and attention as the preeminent law, and models for us creative social friendship.

Pope Francis asks us to gaze at the world similarly, such that we come to see the basic, indispensable relation of all things and people, near and far. In its simplicity of call, Fratelli tutti is a devastating challenge to our ecological, political, economic and social life. But above all it is a proclamation of an ineradicable, joyful truth, presented here as a well-spring for a fatigued world.

This letter is not a coolly detached critique. Its spiritual discipline sees the humanising task this way: to be truly human is to be willing to look at the world in its beauty and its pain, to listen deeply through human encounters to the griefs and the joys of one’s age and to take these into oneself, to carry them as one’s own.

The notion that all created life shares its origin in God the Father, and that in Christ we become sisters and brothers, bonded in dignity, care, and friendship, is one of the oldest social teachings of Christianity. The names at the heart of this letter are those of the scriptures: we are brothers, sisters, neighbours, friends. The early Christians shaped their views of money, community, and politics based on this vision. That a theme so ancient is spoken with such urgency now is because Pope Francis fears a detachment from the view that we are all really responsible for all, all related to all, all entitled to a just share of what has been given for the good of all. It is not a mockable fantasy to believe this. He writes with grief about the cultural cynicism and impoverishment limiting our social imaginations. It is not absurd to acknowledge kinship beyond borders, to crave cultures where social bonds are respected and encounter and dialogue are practiced.

Fratelli tutti makes clear that universal fraternity and social friendship must be practised together. Failure to do this abounds. Globalisation proclaims universal values but fails to practice encounter and attention – especially, to difference and the most vulnerable. Digital communications trade on our hunger for connection but distort it, producing a febrile bondedness built on binaries of likes and dislikes, and commodified by powerful interests. Populism appeals to the desire for stability, rootedness, and rewarding work, but lets hostility distort these desires. Liberalism imagines freedom in terms of the self-interested individual and discounts our deeply inter-connected lives. We forget what enables societies to endure and renew. These are our false materialisms.

This letter has its roots in a specific interfaith encounter. It is unashamed about its religious character and call. A transcendent truth is not a burden, but a gift securing the roots of our action. It can reduce the anxiety we feel about taking risks together for the transformation of our world. Faith is our wellspring. It is part of how we can name and move beyond the grieving indifference of our age.

For this reason, the encyclical is clear about the weight of responsibility borne by religious communities. Religious groups are caught up in the digital and market cultures that harm us. Inexcusably, religious leaders have been slow to condemn unjust practices, past and present. Religion too stands in need of repentance and renewal. Fratelli tutti exhorts religions to be models of dialogue, brokers of peace, and bearers of the message of transcendent love to a hungry, cynical and uprooted world.

Echoing the Abu Dhabi statement, the encyclical restates the absolute dignity of the human person, over which no political preference, no ‘law’ of the market can take precedence. Here Pope Francis highlights the treatment of migrants. He notes the biblical commands to welcome the stranger, the benefits that come with encounters between cultures, and the invitation to sheer gratuitous love. But he also extends earlier social teaching on the universal destination of goods, making clear that nations are entitled to their land, wealth and property insofar as this enables all humankind to access the means for survival and fulfilment. A nation bears obligations to the whole human family and not merely towards its own citizens. Dignity, solidarity, and the universal destination of material goods are the hallmarks of this teaching.

Pope Francis warns against closed forms of populism, but he upholds the importance of seeing ourselves as ‘a people’. Following St Augustine, he reminds us that to become ‘a people’ is based on encountering each other in dialogue, face to face and side by side. Together we negotiate the enduring common loves we wish to live by. This is a dynamic unfinished process of social peace building, one that is the fruit of a genuine search for, and exchange of, truths. A culture is only healthy to the extent that it remains open to others. This renewal of political cultures happens only with, not for the most marginalised. The role of grassroots movements is key to this participation.

The naming of God as our kin, and ourselves as kin and kind in this image, is love-language. 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’…

Charo Catselló, . Reference from World Movement of Christian Workers

Fratelli tutti: desire of fraternity, solidarity and social justice

Charo Catselló, . Reference from World Movement of Christian Workers

Fratelli tutti opens up paths to make the utopia of a great human family, of which Francis and so many people in the popular movements dream, a reality and which resonates in the lives of believers and non-believers, who spend their lives in the struggle for dignity.

It encourages those who demand dignified work; land, to be responsible for, so that no one goes hungry; and a roof to shelter all of humanity. An appeal to the popular movements to continue dreaming, walking and building: "it is possible to long for a planet that ensures land, housing and work for all".

It proposes an achievable utopia, where the social, political and economic issues are linked to love, as we popular movements have been pointing out for some time. Charity, if it is not also political, is not charity. It is not just about giving food, but working to transform the structures that prevent people from getting food for themselves.

It is an urgent appeal in the face of self-destruction and dehumanisation. Natural resources and ecosystems are being depleted; the dignity of work is being trampled on and the rights of working people are often violated for the sake of an economic system devoted to chrematistic.

It is an opportunity to sustain hope in the encounter and recognition, as a deeper aspiration that allows us to fraternize with each other.

It is continuity of the Church's magisterium: without addressing the social question it is not possible to aspire to fraternity. "The social question has become radically an anthropological question," said Benedict XVI (CV, 75). Now Francis said broadly and concretely: "In the face of various and current forms of eliminating or ignoring others, let us be able to react with a new dream of fraternity and social friendship".

It is not a dream, but the capacity to imagine a new and different reality, the first step on the way to it; it is an appeal to act in coherence with our being and vocation. It is an invitation to get involved and to put it into practice, in dialogue with people of good will. It proposes a new logic for our lives and social organization: social friendship: "Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all".

The Samaritan Civilization

In the face of the shadows of a closed world, which discards so many people, we are invited to hope and responsibility, based on the parable of the Good Samaritan, a paradigm of the need for a culture of care for one another, and not indifference.

We have a great opportunity to begin again, from the essential fraternity, which invites us to be an active part of the rehabilitation and healing of wounded societies. "We cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast. Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering. That is the meaning of dignity”.

He calls constantly for "thinking and acting" a world, "managed" from universal love, from openness to all people, without borders that deny dignity and fundamental rights. He affirms that "every human being has the right to live with dignity and to develop integrally; this fundamental right cannot be denied by any country. People have this right even if they are unproductive, or were born with or developed limitations. This does not detract from their great dignity as human persons, a dignity based not on circumstances but on the intrinsic worth of their being". In coherence, solidarity acquires greater human depth: "It means that the lives of all are prior to the appropriation of goods by a few".

In this context, Francis recovers a principle of the Catholic Social Teaching, that is, the common use of goods for all, as a principle of the whole ethical-social order. When we popular movements demand land, housing and work, we want this principle to be put into practice, since it has enormous consequences for people's lives, water, land, culture, work, etc., universal goods that no one has the right to appropriate. "The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods. This has concrete consequences that ought to be reflected in the workings of society".

Without forgetting that solidarity, "it also means combating the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labour rights. It means confronting the destructive effects of the empire of money… Solidarity, understood in its most profound meaning, is a way of making history, and this is what popular movements are doing”.

The biggest issue: employment

Fratelli tutti gives great centrality to political charity, to "the best politics" at the service of the common good, which always gives priority to the needs of the impoverished. For the Pope, we can help a person in need, "when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the “field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity". It is a question of moving in this direction. Once again he calls for the rehabilitation of politics. And he stresses that in "good politics" the dignity of work and decent work is of great importance: "The biggest issue is work". The truly “popular” thing – since it promotes the good of the people – is to provide everyone with the opportunity to nurture the seeds that God has planted in each of us: our talents, our initiative and our innate resources (...) Since production systems may change, political systems must keep working to structure society in such a way that everyone has a chance to contribute his or her own talents and efforts. For “there is no poverty worse than that which takes away work and the dignity of work".

Going out to meet

From a style of being, thinking and acting different from predominating in the field of human relations; among nations, cultures, institutions..., he proposes to us to build humanity: dialogue and social friendship, life "as the art of encounter", with all peoples, even with the outskirts of the world, with the native peoples..., "Each of us can learn something from others, no one is useless".

Reflections (PDF files)

Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General

Fratelli tutti - Politics as an act of Love and Courage

Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General

“Recognising that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian. It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end.” (FT.180)

One doesn’t usually consider politics as an act of charity or of love. Politics has often been reduced to its most menial form, and associated with greed, domination, exploitation, and corruption. And yet, here, in his latest Encyclical Letter, Pope Francis challenges us all to reclaim the nobility of the political act: to take responsibility as members of one human family for the well-being of all.

This reflection about our responsibilities towards one another and Creation were shared with us in the midst of the second wave of the global pandemic. This is also the period when Christians begin Advent, a time of preparation, waiting, and vigilance. In the northern hemisphere's darkest days of the year, the light of Christmas helps us keep our focus and not stagnate. In a global pandemic, amidst great uncertainty and fear, when movement and contact is restricted, it is tempting to shut our eyes and wait till the storm passes. This, however, is not how we will emerge from this crisis into a better world. Fratelli Tutti calls us to find active energy in our love. Through the storms, through the suffering, from our compassion, must come solidarity and the courage to stand for the Common Good.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis continued to elaborate on interdependence and the relationship between our excesses, our individualism, our nationalism, and the suffering we are seeing around us. Fratelli Tutti is a stark mid-Covid reminder that none of us will be safe if we are not all safe. Only together will we heal this wounded world, only by converting to a culture of care, responsibility, of listening, will we emerge from this crisis stronger.

Pope Francis’ previous Encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, also spoke of interconnectedness and responsibility. It demonstrated how Western lifestyles were threatening all forms of life on this planet as we continue to push past planetary boundaries. One year ago, the Pope convened a Synod on the Amazon to reflect on how neo-colonial consumption of the Amazon’s resources is demolishing cultures, species, and human lives in this part of the world. On this common home, power and resources are unevenly distributed, and there are voices who have not yet been heard. At the Amazon Synod, the Pope invited the Catholic community to open ourselves to the perspectives and knowledge that the Indigenous peoples could share with us, in order to preserve our planet, our home, and therefore ourselves.

For a network of Catholic social justice organisations such as CIDSE, Fratelli Tutti calls us to be bold, to name the clouds that hang over us all, to recognise responsibility, even when it is uncomfortable. Even when we are tired and discouraged. That is the exact moment when we must stand together and draw on our faith. Building on Laudato Si’, and Evangelii Gaudium, and the vast body of catholic social teaching, we name the symptoms of our hurt world and how we must address them. We have an extractive and colonialist economic model of growth, producing a culture of unequal consumption and discrimination and resulting in extreme ecological and human degradation. We are reminded that we treat the earth and how we treat each other. Fratelli Tutti urges us all to make decisions for the “universal common good” by bringing us ever closer to our own responsibility in how we treat our “neighbour”. A healthy politics would transform our economy into one that “is an integral part of a political, social, cultural and popular programme”.

This passing decade has seen a rise in distrust of democratic or multilateral institutions. Pope Francis challenges us to step out of our dangerous trends of building walls, of self-protectionism, nationalism, and isolationism. In speaking about the importance of upholding collective, multilateral commitments and working in cooperation among nations, he reminds us: “Courage and generosity are needed in order to freely establish shared goals and to ensure worldwide observance of certain essential norms.” (FT. 174). He calls on multilateral institutions, on politicians, on governments, but also on individuals to form a new kind of human community.

All the clouds can only be cleared if we blow them away, if we find it within our hearts to speak out against them and demand a political change. We can and must act on the transgressions we witness. We must take our own responsibilities but also demand our political leaders act for the Common Good and in the pursuit of peace.

Pope Francis invites us to hope, because as he says “Hope is bold”, and to allow ourselves to be open to the world around us, because it is in the richness of our diversity and the multitude of voices and ideas that we will build peace. We should act on our political responsibilities to create space for marginalized voices to take up their place, and allow ourselves to be transformed by their messages. 

As we meditate through the second wave, and through advent, we come back full circle to the idea of love, care, fraternity, solidarity, and hope. “Politics too must make room for a tender love of others” (194). We understand this not just to be addressed to political leaders, but to all of us, to challenge us to become political actors and lead from the heart.

María Lía Zervino, Servidora, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations President

Fratelli tutti – Social friendship: a new lifestyle

María Lía Zervino, Servidora,  World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations President

My home country is Argentina. A nation marked by social confrontation at different times in its history; divided into two great antagonistic factions caused by political, ideological, economic and other reasons. Even now we continue to harm each other because of a terrible “rift”. However, from the bowels of this people, the Lord called one of his own, Cardinal Bergoglio, to steer, like Peter, the boat of the Church in the midst of the global storm of the Coronavirus and a “’third world war’ fought piecemeal”. The encyclical Fratelli tutti was born from his pastoral experience.

In many cases, whoever suffers from an illness and overcomes it generates the necessary antibodies to deal with other analogous episodes. Similarly, based on the experience of Pope Francis, the Holy Spirit inspired him to write Fratelli tutti. Those of us who were able to share some unforgettable moments with him, in the Argentinian Episcopal Conference during his time as President, know the friendship he established with local leaders of other faiths, such as Rabbi Abraham Skorka and the Muslim leader Omar Abboud. Proof of this is the photo of the Pope embracing his two friends on his trip to the Holy Land in 2014.

Bergoglio used to spend the most important feasts of the liturgical year with these friends, talking about all subjects, from heart to heart. One year, it happened that both the rabbi's father-in-law and a brother of the cardinal died. The friends accompanied each other and talked in depth about death. This is how the book they wrote together, On Heaven and Earth, came about. This “perfume” of social friendship was perceived in various sectors of the Episcopal Conference and prompted us, as the National Commission for Justice and Peace, to work together with leaders of ten different religious traditions on the National Education Bill that was debated at that time.

I mention these facts because I regard them as significant in order to underscore how inductive the method showed in the Holy Father's teaching is. It is true that, in the midst of the shadows in which we are immersed, the beacon of Fratelli tutti, which indicates to us the goal of human fraternity and social friendship, may seem to us an unattainable dream. But if we start from the reality of each one, from the bottom up, we will prove that this great treasure of the encyclical - on which all humanity can count in this tragic 2020 - is a feasible project. 

Without leaving aside the attention to the global level, and thus human fraternity/sorority as the final cause, I would like to focus my reflection on social friendship which, as local cordiality, is inseparable from the universal dimension and constitutes its authentic leaven. It would be false to be open to the universal if we do not build this approach by feeding the fire in our homes, in our homeland, in the various peoples and in the different cultural regions of the world.  The best way to avoid falling into a declarationist nominalism is to initiate processes that generate relational goods in one's own environment.

From a sociological standpoint, social friendship is the relational good par excellence. Relational goods are intangible. They consist of relationships and generate relationships characterised by replicability, ethics and communality. They are relationships in which we give, so that the other can also give, by means of an appropriate reaction that may not be identical to what is received. In this dynamic, we get responses from the other pole of the relationship, which replicate the shared value and may even occur distantly in time and benefit other, different individuals. 

Relational goods are based on the reciprocal recognition of the equal dignity of the one who is different. Therefore, they make it easier to take care of the other. They are not consumed when they are used. On the contrary, they increase. They are relationships that empower those who relate to each other, in their integrity as human beings. Social friendship is valuable because it denotes social ethical values such as trust, fidelity, co-responsibility and cooperation, and because it contributes to the care of the individuals involved, having the integral good of the community and the relative natural environment as the final goal.

Social friendship requires and promotes a civic participation that does not belong to the usual lifestyle many of us are used to. It is the result of sharing a wealth of goods and values, making sure that nobody is left out. This lifestyle is the core of the culture of encounter. If we were to take a “picture” with a drone, it would show an area of the planet with many networks of encounters in which each person is recognised with his or her own face, without leaving anyone isolated. In such a context, each person is responsibly linked to this communal bonding, collaborating - from his or her own perspective and resources - to the promotion of peace and justice. 

Is this utopia? No, it is not, if we follow the strategy outlined by Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti. A key requirement is a “persistent and courageous” dialogue, open to the truth, between generations and members of a people, which leads to the culture of encounter within a country. For this reason, I believe it is appropriate to propose a soul-searching on the actions required for a dialogue of this nature, on our ability to approach, look at, listen to and try to understand each other, to seek points of contact, in order to be able to conjugate with honesty the verb: to dialogue.

Nevertheless, it is not easy to use only the compass of open and respectful dialogue, eliminating the habit of judging and disqualifying the opponent, particularly when the conviction of the other does not coincide with one's own. We cannot be naive. We need to be concrete and count on intrigues and conflicts, maintaining the attachment to the fundamental truths and the evangelical advice: “pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).

Let us take up, with God's grace, the challenge of our conversion - today “integral ecological conversion” - to offer a coherent witness in processes of fruitful dialogue. Let us overcome the barriers of individualism and indifference. From our own particular place and mission, let us face a new style of life that arouse social friendship. Women and men, we are all co-responsible for the present and the immediate future of humanity.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for Fratelli tutti!

Mario Cucinella, Italian architect, designer and academic, particularly known for his research on the environmental sustainability of buildings

Art and Fraternity

Mario Cucinella, Italian architect, designer and academic, particularly known for his research on the environmental sustainability of buildings

Fraternity: Lasting mutual feeling of affection and benevolence; the natural and spiritual bond that exists among humanity.

Art: Art, in its broadest sense, includes all human activity – performed individually or collectively – which leads to forms of creativity and aesthetic expression, relying on technical devices, innate abilities, and acquired and behavioral norms arising from study and from experience. Therefore art is a language, with the ability to convey emotions and messages.      

In its most sublime meaning, art is the aesthetic expression of the inner life and of the human soul. It reflects the opinions, feelings and thoughts of the artist in the social, moral, cultural, ethical or religious sphere of their historical period.

 

Fraternity, an affectionate relationship with the people and places of real life

“Fraternity between all men and women … shows us how to dream … together … as a single human family .. as children of the same earth which is our common home” (FT, 8). Moreover, fraternity means “enduring relationship of affection." This definition encompasses also the  affectionate relationship with places – those of our heritage and those of our lived experience. This feeling does not only concern a relationship between people, but also with things, streets, town squares, buildings, and above all, nature. When we talk about the environment, for example, we also refer to “a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it" (LS, 139). Between us and nature, between us and the environment, there is a relationship, a bond, a connection. From the point of view of “integral ecology” (cf. LS, 137-162), which takes us “to the heart of what it is to be human” (LS, 11), we cannot consider the human being outside of this emotional and relational dimension with its environment and with others. 

This lasting relationship of affection has been lost and replaced by an exclusive relationship with money, with an anthropocentric personal ambition that no longer leaves room for an idea of fraternity but for a form of selfishness and wealth not to be shared with others. As Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, “we fed ourselves on dreams of splendour and grandeur, and ended up consuming distraction, insularity and solitude. We gorged ourselves on networking, and lost the taste of fraternity. We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety. Prisoners of a virtual reality, we lost the taste and flavour of the truly real” (FT, 33). 

We have considered nature – the trees, the animals, the plants, the air – as something exclusively for us, for our consumption, without realizing that all this living world is essential to our survival and that we humans are just part of an immense and fragile balance of life. “We are called to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature” (LS, 67). We cannot ignore that "everything is interconnected," that: "[e]verything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth" (LS, 92,).    

  

Art, nature, fraternity 

The perception of this love that connects us, of this bond of profound fraternity with people and with creation, has always required a way of being expressed, made explicit, represented and proclaimed. What is art if not the expression of this deep bond? Music tells us how we have interpreted the world around us: the roar of thunder, the fractures of ice, the wind, the sounds of the forest, the rain, or the silence of the deep seas. There I recall again the Pope, in the Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia: “The various arts, and poetry in particular, have found inspiration in [the Amazon’s] water, its forests, its seething life, as well as its cultural diversity and its ecological and social challenges." (QA, 35). 

How much of what surrounds us has been transformed into a new human language, reinterpreted in an artistic form! And together with that language of ours, we have crossed throughout time with the emotions, feelings, and fears that art has given us. In this sense, art has united us, it has made us share our time together in our human journey. Even life, in fact, can be considered, and can become, art, "the art of encounter" (FT, 215), as Pope Francis writes. 

And on the relationship of fraternity with nature, it is necessary today more than ever to rediscover that lasting affection. Art today looks at this relationship with great sensitivity precisely because the artist, in freedom, searches for sensitive, contradictory themes, and even of suffering, which helps us to understand our time from a different point of view, and to face the future. 

 

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