The message of Pope Francis’s new social encyclical: no one is saved alone. It proposes a fraternal society so that society is not overrun by war, hatred, violence, indifference and new walls.
We are surrounded by “dark clouds over a closed world”. However, some will not surrender to the darkness, but continue to dream, to hope, to get their hands dirty by dedicating themselves to creating fraternity and social friendship. The piecemeal Third World War, the logic of a market founded on profit appears to be gaining ground over sound politics, the throwaway culture seems to prevail, the groan from people who are hungry goes unheard. But there is someone indicating a clear path to shape a different and more humane world.
Five years ago, Pope Francis published the Encyclical Laudato si’ in which he clearly delineated the connections that exist between the environmental crisis, the social crisis, war, migration and poverty. He indicated the goal to reach: a more just economic and social system, one that would respect creation, that would put the human person at the centre as the guardian of mother earth rather than money, elevated as an absolute god.
Today, with the new social Encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Successor of Peter shows the concrete way to reach that goal: recognising ourselves as brothers and sisters because we are children, one another’s keepers, everyone in the same boat, as this pandemic has made even more evident. It is the way out of surrendering to the temptation of being homo homini lupus (people who act like wolves toward others), of building new walls, of isolation. Instead, it holds up the ever current and “out of the box” evangelical icon of the Good Samaritan.
The path Pope Francis indicates is founded on Jesus’s message that destroys every perception of the other as a stranger. In fact, every Christian is called to discover “Christ in each human being, recognising him crucified in the sufferings of the abandoned and forgotten of our world, and risen in each brother or sister who” who gets back on their feet. The message of fraternity is one that can be accepted, understood and shared both by men and women who believe in other faiths, as well as the many women and men who are unbelievers.
The new Encyclical is presented as a summa of Pope Francis’s social teaching. It systematically gathers points that he has offered in speeches, discourses and interventions throughout the first seven years of his pontificate. One of its sources and inspirations is undoubtedly represented by the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”, signed on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi together with the Grand Iman of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyib. From that shared declaration, a milestone in the dialogue between religions, the Pope reiterates his appeal that dialogue be the way, that common collaboration be the modus operandi, and that reciprocal understanding be the method and criterion.
It would, however, be remissive to relegate the new Encyclical solely to the sphere of interreligious dialogue. Fratelli tutti’s message, in fact, concerns us all. It contains enlightening pages even in the social and political areas. It may seem paradoxical that it is the Bishop of Rome, a voice in the desert, who is today reinitiating a project in favour of sound politics: politics capable of taking up again its specific role, after having trusted for too long a time in financial interests and the market myth that said they would produce well-being for everyone without the need of being governed.
There is an entire chapter dedicated to politics from the perspective of service and as a witness to charity, nourished by great ideals, that plans for the future by thinking about the common good rather than short-term gains, a future that keeps the younger generations especially in mind. And at a time in which many countries are closing themselves in, it is precisely the Pope who once again is extending the invitation not to lose trust in the international organisms, albeit in need of reform so that it is not only the strong that count.
Among the most powerful pages of the Encyclical are those dedicated to the condemnation of war and the rejection of the death penalty. Along the lines of Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in terris, starting with a realistic assessment of the catastrophic results that so many conflicts in the last decades have wreaked on the lives of millions of innocent people, Pope Francis recalls that it is very difficult today to sustain the rational criteria matured in past centuries underpinning the possibility of a “just war”. Just as unjustified and inadmissible is recourse to the death penalty, which must be abolished in the entire world.
It is true, as the Pope notes, that “in today’s world, the sense of belonging to a single human family is fading, and the dream of working together for justice and peace seems an outdated utopia”. But there is a need to start to dream again and, above all, to make that dream come true together. Before it is too late.
With thanks to Vatican News and Andrea Tornielli, where this article originally appeared.