Fraternity and social friendship are the ways the Pontiff indicates to build a better, more just and peaceful world, with the contribution of all: people and institutions. With an emphatic confirmation of a ‘no’ to war and to globalized indifference.
From Vatican News
What are the great ideals but also the tangible ways to advance for those who wish to build a more just and fraternal world in their ordinary relationships, in social life, politics and institutions? This is mainly the question that Fratelli tutti is intended to answer: the Pope describes it as a “Social Encyclical” (6) which borrows the title of the “Admonitions” of Saint Francis of Assisi, who used these words to “address his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavour of the Gospel” (1). The Poverello “did not wage a war of words aimed at imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God”, the Pope writes, and “he became a father to all and inspired the vision of a fraternal society” (2-4). 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, and hence we need to be aware that in a globalized and interconnected world, only together can we be saved. 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.
Fraternity is to be encouraged not only in words, but in deeds. Deeds made tangible in a “better kind of politics”, which is not subordinated to financial interests, but to serving the common good, able to place the dignity of every human being at the centre and assure work to everyone, so that each one can develop his or her own abilities. A politics which, removed from populism, is able to find solutions to what attacks fundamental human rights and which aims to definitively eliminate hunger and trafficking. At the same time, Pope Francis underscores that a more just world is achieved by promoting peace, which is not merely the absence of war; it demands “craftsmanship”, a job that involves everyone.
Linked to truth, peace and reconciliation must be “proactive”; they must work toward justice through dialogue, in the name of mutual development. This begets the Pontiff's condemnation of war, the “negation of all rights” and is no longer conceivable even in a hypothetically “justified” form, because nuclear, chemical and biological weapons already have enormous repercussions on innocent civilians. There is also a strong rejection of the death penalty, defined as “inadmissible”, and a central reflection on forgiveness, connected to the concepts of remembrance and justice: to forgive does not mean to forget, the Pontiff writes, nor to give up defending one's rights to safeguard one's dignity, which is a gift from God. In the background of the Encyclical is the Covid-19 pandemic which, Francis reveals, “unexpectedly erupted” as he “was writing this letter”. But the global health emergency has helped demonstrate that “no one can face life in isolation” and that the time has truly come to “dream, then, as a single human family” in which we are “brothers and sisters all” (7-8).
Global problems, global actions
Opened by a brief introduction and 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” (5). In the first chapter, “Dark clouds over a closed world”, the document reflects on the many distortions of the contemporary era: the manipulation and deformation of concepts such as democracy, freedom, justice; the loss of the meaning of the social community and history; selfishness and indifference toward the common good; the prevalence of a market logic based on profit and the culture of waste; unemployment, racism, poverty; the disparity of rights and its aberrations such as slavery, trafficking, women subjugated and then forced to abort, organ trafficking (10-24). It deals with global problems that call for global actions, emphasizes the Pope, also sounding the alarm against a “culture of walls” that favours the proliferation of organized crime, fuelled by fear and loneliness (27-28). Moreover, today we observe a deterioration of ethics (29), contributed to, in a certain way, by the mass media which shatter respect for others and eliminate all discretion, creating isolated and self-referential virtual circles, in which freedom is an illusion and dialogue is not constructive (42-50).
Love builds bridges: the Good Samaritan
To many shadows, however, the Encyclical responds with a luminous example, a herald of hope: the Good Samaritan. The second chapter, “A stranger on the road”, is dedicated to this figure. In it, the Pope emphasizes that, in an unhealthy society that turns its back on suffering and that is “illiterate” in caring for the frail and vulnerable (64-65), we are all called – just like the Good Samaritan – to become neighbours to others (81), overcoming prejudices, personal interests, historic and cultural barriers. We all, in fact, are co-responsible in creating a society that is able to include, integrate and lift up those who have fallen or are suffering (77). Love builds bridges and “we were made for love” (88), the Pope adds, particularly exhorting Christians to recognize Christ in the face of every excluded person (85). The principle of the capacity to love according to “a universal dimension” (83) is also resumed in the third chapter, “Envisaging and engendering an open world”. In this chapter Francis exhorts us to go “‘outside’ the self” in order to find “a fuller existence in another” (88), opening ourselves up to the other according to the dynamism of charity which makes us tend toward “universal fulfilment” (95). In the background – the Encyclical recalls – the spiritual stature of a person’s life is measured by love, which always “takes first place” and leads us to seek better for the life of the other, far from all selfishness (92-93).
Rights have no borders
A fraternal society, therefore, will be one that promotes educating in dialogue in order to defeat the “virus” of “radical individualism” (105) and to allow everyone to give the best of themselves. Beginning with protection of the family and respect for its “primary and vital mission of education” (114). There are two ‘tools’ in particular to achieve this type of society: benevolence, or truly wanting good for the other (112), and solidarity which cares for fragility and is expressed in service to people and not to ideologies, fighting against poverty and inequality (115). The right to live with dignity cannot be denied to anyone, the Pope again affirms, and since rights have no borders, no one can remain excluded, regardless of where they are born (121). In this perspective the Pontiff also calls us to consider “an ethics of international relations” (126), because every country also belongs to foreigners and the goods of the territory cannot be denied to those who are in need and come from another place. Thus, the natural right to private property will be secondary to the principal of the universal destination of created goods (120). The Encyclical also places specific emphasis on the issue of foreign debt: subject to the principal that it must be paid, it is hoped nonetheless that this does not compromise the growth and subsistence of the poorest countries (126).
To read more, please click here