Encyclical letter on fraternity and social friendship (Fratelli tutti).

 

            "Globalization may bring us closer, but it doesn't make us brothers." Universal brotherhood is not an easy reality to set up. With its temptation to create a "culture of walls", the world of today is turning its back on the great fraternal values.

            Faced with this observation, Pope Francis' continuing concern is to propose "paths of hope". He spoke of fraternity in front of the most diverse audiences, at meetings in Rome and during his travels around the world: he gathered these interventions in an encyclical, Fratelli tutti, integrating them, he writes, "in the broader and systematically organized framework of a teaching on fraternity."

            This new encyclical is presented as a social encyclical: it engages in the political field, for example to talk about immigration, populism, or the death penalty. The title is taken from an expression of St. Francis of Assisi. And even, not just the title: it is all the words that are inspired by Saint Francis. Two other people also inspired these pages: the great Iman Ahmad  Al-Tayyeb whom the Pope met in Abu Dhabi in February 2019; their joint statement is quoted in the conclusion of the encyclical; the other person is Blessed Charles de Foucauld who wanted to be the "universal brother".

            In eight chapters, the encyclical does not aim to take up the Christian doctrine on fraternal love but to present to us the universal dimension of this love. Throughout these eight views on the universal dimension, the Pope constantly reminds us of the dignity of each person and emphasizes the concern of the poor. The issues discussed are various: globalization, pandemics, migrations and borders, social dialogue, war, the death penalty, religions, and violence. Each discussed subject gives rise to a real little treatise.

            There can be no question here of summarizing this encyclical: it is in our interest to read it by taking one's time. It is not difficult: the tone is often that of the conversation to which Pope Francis has accustomed us.

            As this is a matter of introducing it to the members of this international movement that is LAI, I propose to dwell on the fourth chapter entitled "An Open Heart to the World" which deals, from migration, with the encounter between people marked by different cultures. “The different cultures that have flourished over the centuries need to be preserved, lest our world be impoverished. At the same time, those cultures should be encouraged to be open to new experiences through their encounter with other realities, for the risk of succumbing to cultural sclerosis is always present.” (134). The Pope invites us “to think not simply as a country but also as part of the larger human family “(141). “By enriching itself with elements from other places, a culture does not import a mere carbon copy of those new elements but integrates them in its own way. The result is a new synthesis that is ultimately beneficial to all.” (148). “To attain fulfilment in life we need others. An awareness of our own limitations and incompleteness, far from being a threat, becomes the key to envisaging and pursuing a common project. “(150). Dialogue with people from another culture provides an opportunity to enrich and renew oneself, so it should not be scary.

            The eighth chapter, entitled "Religions at the Service of Fraternity in our World," resonates in a special way today. Violence feeds on misinterpretations of religious texts as well as "policies of hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression, arrogance." It does not find its basis in fundamental religious convictions. We are therefore invited to return to our sources to refocus on the essential: worship and love of neighbor (281-283).

            Thank you to Pope Francis. Even when he notices and regrets that we have “lost the taste of brotherhood”, he helps us to rediscover “the very project of fraternity inscribed in the vocation of the human family.”

Father François Maupu

 

To view and download the Encyclical, click here