Last Sunday, Pope Francis published his latest encyclical (authoritative Church teaching) called Fratelli Tutti.
This document has received criticism, understandably, for its gendered language. However, after reading the entire work, it becomes clear that, for Francis, the word “fraternity” which simply translates as brotherhood in English, does not have this simplistic meaning. Fraternity for this pope is a concept that some have described as “social friendship” but in fact is far more expansive.
It refers to a relatedness amongst all humanity, extending to the natural environment. In Fratelli Tutti, Francis describes how today’s world could revive from its present state of toxic injustice and corruption to reflect a universal fraternity that acknowledges the interdependence of nations and seeks a common respect. Fraternity recognizes human dignity, difference, history, and seeks genuine dialogue, collective wisdom, peace.
Much like his namesake, the 13th c. St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis is responding to Christ’s call to “rebuild my church”. We must dare to return to the faith and practice of the Early Church that brought Christ’s radical vision of relationship to the world: not through self righteousness and entitlement, but through solidarity with the most vulnerable, impoverished, excluded and oppressed. Fratelli Tutti has not only religious but also social, political, and economic, ramifications.
The encyclical speaks to each of us as members of the Catholic community, but it addresses all human beings as members of the family of God—whether atheist, pagan, or members of other religions. This is a call to action. How will we respond?
Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti: “In some countries, a concept of popular and national unity influenced by various ideologies is creating new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense under the guise of defending national interests. Once more we are being reminded that “each new generation must take up the struggles and attainments of past generations, while setting its sights even higher. This is the path. Goodness, together with love, justice and solidarity, are not achieved once and for all; they have to be realized each day. It is not possible to settle for what was achieved in the past and complacently enjoy it, as if we could somehow disregard the fact that many of our brothers and sisters still endure situations that cry out for our attention”.