A gift from Pope Francis: All brothers and sisters

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(from the Alphonsian Academy blog)

Pope Francis gives us a new encyclical letter (03-10-2020) entitled: Fratelli tutti (All Brothers and Sisters), a phrase taken from St. Francis of Assisi, to communicate a message, an unavoidable dream, which is “about fraternity and social friendship.” As we know, signed in the city and the Franciscan convent of Assisi. Place of the living memory of the gospel sown by the little brother Francis. With an Introduction, eight chapters, and its 287 numerals, the Pope offers us a message that is dream and way, because it is the fervent desire of a way that has to be crossed as fidelity to the gospel of the life and the life made gospel.

Interestingly, in this new social encyclical, it is of social character, a constant bet in his magisterium, and then that it pretends to be a message open to the whole world, humanly universal and interreligious. Interestingly, his fundamental motivation and inspiration, apart from his Christian faith perspective, is his meeting with the Great Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and so many other human beings of universal value (cf FR, n. 286). Traces and signs that this Pope is offering us, for a faith that unfolds through paths of dialogue, open and sincere, seeking alternative answers to a world that cries out for the effectiveness of a love that is not only proclaimed but realized.

It would seem that the pope wants to encourage a bet to overcome closures and win in openings; this is a strong image throughout this letter, as is certainly all his pastoral effort, as we see from the very day of his appearance on St. Peter’s balcony when he was elected bishop of Rome. We are offered an invitation to respect the local, the particular, but open to the universal, caring for the periphery and overcoming borders. That seems to be the dynamic of this dream and this new journey as humanity —a dream of Jesus and many human beings of goodwill throughout our history. The basic evangelical paradigm is that of the Good Samaritan, here the Pope returns to one of his key steps, as certainly has been that of the beloved St. Paul VI and Vatican II. All betting on a “worldwide desire of brotherhood” so that people and their diverse cultures and social configurations are a localized and globalized bet of reciprocal bonds of friendship.

For a first reading, following the structure of the letter, perhaps we can face the first three chapters as a situational and motivational framework, where we are offered insights and keys to move from closeness to openness: Chapter I: “The Shadows of a Closed World” (9-55); Chapter II: “A Stranger on the Road” (56-86: Samaritan Paradigm); Chapter III: “Thinking and Creating an Open World” (87-127). We could say from the closed to the open, in and from a paradigmatic change according to the Samaritan logic (“You must go and do the same” Lk 10:25-37). According to the Pope, many personal and social dreams have been postponed or insufficiently realized; they are urgent clamors, demands that cannot be postponed. Only a change of the integral paradigm could give rise to new and real hopes. It would be a matter of betting on fraternity/sorority as the keystone between freedom and equality, which would lead from the moral-social point of view to an operative centrality of solidarity.

The hinge would be in Chapter IV: “A heart open to the whole world” (128-153), because it is there that it is affirmed “that all human beings are brothers and sisters if it is not only an abstraction but takes on flesh and becomes concrete, it poses a series of challenges that dislocate us, oblige us to assume new perspectives and develop new reactions” (FT, n. (FT, n. 128) and offer the keys to the dynamism of this fundamental change suggested by the Pope from closedness to openness, for which reciprocal offerings are necessary, fruitful exchanges where local flavor and universal horizon are combined.

From here, we pass to the part that we could call properly of social morality, with the following three chapters: Chapter V: “The best politics” (154-197); Chapter VI: “Dialogue and social friendship” (198-224); Chapter VII: “Paths of reunion” (225-270). Here we assume and confront various themes of social morality, following the common teaching of the Church, but contributing insistence that is not less prophetic when it comes to indicating paths of change and possible transformations, attending to them is urgent, according to the Pope, besides verifying fidelity to the Gospel; for which he stops to point out the need to cultivate personal attitudes and significant structural changes. All of this leads to the recognition that in our world, “there is a need for paths of peace that lead to the healing of wounds, there is a need for artisans of the peace who are willing to generate processes of healing and reunion with ingenuity and audacity” (FT, n. 225). The father, following his style, proposes an effective love capable of activating transformation processes that begin again from the last ones, from the excluded, this is key in his social teaching. In this sense, one of the many pearls is the call and warning to break and overcome all types of violence.

Finally, by way of a synthetic and inclusive corollary, Chapter VIII is offered to us: “Religions at the service of brotherhood in the world” (271-287); it makes recognition and a call to the need for religious freedom, interreligious dialogue, and the common commitment to face and overcome violence and different extremists.

Thus, the proposal is made, the voice of an appeal and an invitation to a common path; therefore, Pope Francis tells us: “Let us dream as one humanity, as walkers of the same human flesh, as children of this same earth that shelters us all, each one with the richness of his faith or his convictions, each one with his own voice, all brothers” (FT, n. 8).

p. Antonio Gerardo Fidalgo, CSsR

(the original is in Spanish)

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