Integral ecology

"Fratelli Tutti": Friendship and fraternity, dialogue and encounter.

We offer an analysis of the encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" issued by the Holy Father Francis on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which offers a Christian perspective on the current social reality.

Ramiro Pellitero-October 4, 2020-Reading time: 5 minutes
fratelli tutti

Pope Francis' third encyclical Fratelli tutti, on fraternity and social friendship, is a social encyclical written in the context of the "Christian convictions".offered in a dialogue with all people of good will. These Christian convictions are reflected in the reference to the Second Vatican Council: "The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the people of our time, especially the poor and those who suffer, are at once the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the disciples of Christ." (Gaudium et spes, 1).

Therefore, it starts from a look at the world that "is more than an aseptic description of reality.". It is a "attempt to look for a light in the midst of what we are living".The method is that of ethical and pastoral discernment, which, as the word indicates, seeks to discern the path of the good in order to channel, overcoming the risks of unilateral polarization, the actions of the Church's members (n. 56). The method is that proper to ethical and pastoral discernment, which seeks, as the word indicates, to distinguish the path of good in order to channel, overcoming the risks of unilateral polarization, personal action in the context of society and cultures. 

When trying to fraternity and social friendshipthe Pope declares that he stops at the universal dimension of fraternity. Not surprisingly, one of the key points of the document is the rejection of individualism. "We are all brothers", members of the same human family, which comes from a single Creator, and which sails in the same boat. Globalization shows us the need to work together to promote the common good and care for life, dialogue and peace. 

A world marked by individualism 

Although there is no lack of recognition of scientific and technological advances and of the efforts of many to do good - as we have seen on the occasion of the pandemic -, we are still faced with "the shadows of a closed world": manipulations, injustices and selfishness, conflicts, fears and "culture of walls".xenophobia and contempt for the weak. Dreams are broken, a common project is lacking and the difficulty to respond to personal and social crises is evident. "We are more alone than ever in this overcrowded world that makes individual interests prevail and weakens the community dimension of existence." (n. 12). All this manifests the "accentuation of many forms of individualism without content." (n. 13) and occurs before "an unacceptable international silence" (n. 29). To overcome cynicism, fill the void of meaning in life and avoid violence we need, says the Pope, "recovering the shared passion for a community of belonging and solidarity." (n. 36). 

Opening to the world from the heart

How can we respond to this situation? How can we achieve a real opening to the world, i.e. communication that makes us better and contributes to improving society? The Gospel presents the figure of the good Samaritan (Chapter 2: "A Stranger on the Road"). One thing is clear: "The existence of each of us is linked to that of others: life is not time that passes, but time of encounter." (n. 66). We are made for a fulfillment that can only be achieved in love: "It is not a possible option to live indifferent to pain, we cannot let anyone remain 'on the sidelines of life'. This should outrage us, to the point of making us come down from our serenity to be upset by human suffering." (68). 

In our lives there is always an opportunity to start living fraternity again. To answer the question, "Who is my neighbor? "He does not invite us to ask ourselves who are those who are close to us, but to become close to us, our neighbors". (n. 80).

Therefore, there is no excuse for the slavery, closed nationalism and mistreatment, slavery and towards those who are different: "It is important that catechesis and preaching include in a more direct and clear way the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, the conviction about the inalienable dignity of each person and the motivations to love and welcome all". (n. 86) 

The opening is a key word. To "think and develop an open world" (title of chapter 3), we need a heart open to the whole world (chapter 4). One guarantee is an openness to transcendence, the openness to God: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God." (1 Jn 4,16). 

Francisco declares: "I was especially encouraged by Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, whom I met in Abu Dhabi to recall that God 'has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers among themselves.' (Document on human fraternity for world peace and common coexistence, Abu Dhabi, 4-II-2019) (5).

For Christians, "Faith fills us with unprecedented motivation in recognition of the other, because those who believe can come to recognize that God loves every human being with infinite love and 'thereby confers on him infinite dignity' (John Paul II, Message to the Disabled, November 16, 1980)" (n. 85). Proof of this is that "Christ shed his blood for each and every one, so that no one remains outside his universal love" (n. 85). (Ibid)

Openness of cultures to each other

This has to be manifested in the cultures: "Other cultures are not enemies to be preserved from, but are distinct reflections of the inexhaustible richness of human life." (147), always from and for people: to promote "the value of neighborly love, the first indispensable exercise to achieve a healthy universal integration". (151). 

At the service of the person and of cultures, and of their mutual openness, is placed "the best policy" (title of chapter 5), a work of craftsmanship that should be aimed at the common goodguided by fraternity and social friendship, driven by love. "How much love did I put into my work, what did I advance the people in, what mark did I leave on the life of society, what real ties did I build, what positive forces did I unleash, how much social peace did I sow, what did I provoke in the place entrusted to me?" (n. 197)

Truth and dignity

In the background of this universal dimension of human fraternity that the Pope wishes to promote is what is truly valuable, because not everything is worth the same: "A culture without universal values is not a true culture" (John Paul II, Speech 2-II-1987) (146). Truth is discovered through wisdom, which entails an encounter with reality. (cf. n. 47). Truth does not impose itself or defend itself violently, but opens itself in love. Also the truth of human dignitythe inalienable dignity of every human person regardless of origin, color or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love". (n. 39). At the same time, the relationship of love with truth protects it from being mere sentimentalism, individualism or humanism closed to transcendence (cf. n. 184),

Dialogue, encounter, search for peace

The real dialogue(see chapter 6: "Dialogue and social friendship").  is not a matter of mere negotiation in search of private benefits.The heroes of the future will be those who know how to break this unhealthy logic and decide to respectfully sustain a word loaded with truth, beyond personal convenience. God willing, these heroes are silently brewing in the heart of our society". (n. 202). 

Nor with manipulated consensus or imposed relativism: "Before the moral norms that prohibit intrinsic evil there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. There is no difference between being the master of the world or the last of the wretched of the earth: before moral demands we are all absolutely equal." (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, 96) 

It is necessary to to search for a new culture that recovers kindness. To begin again, in fact, from the truth, together with justice and mercy, with the craftsmanship of Peace (see chapter 7: "Paths of reunion"). This is why war and the death penalty must be opposed.

Religions are called to collaborate in the front line of this project (see chapter 8: "Religions at the service of fraternity in the world"). God cannot be silenced either in society or in the heart of man.: "When, in the name of an ideology, one wants to expel God from society, one ends up worshipping idols, and immediately man is lost, his dignity is trampled upon, his rights violated." (n. 274). Christians believe that in him is found the authentic source of human dignity and universal brotherhood.

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