Encyclical Fratelli tutti (October 3,-2020). Brief Summary by the Holy See Press Office
What are the great ideals, but also the concrete paths to follow for those who want to build a more just and fraternal world in their daily relationships, in social life, in politics and in institutions? This is the question that “Fratelli tutti” intends to answer, mainly: the Pope defines it as a “social encyclical” (6) that takes its title from the “Admonitions” of Saint Francis of Assisi, who used those words “to address all the brothers and sisters, and propose to them a way of life flavored with the Gospel» (1). The Poverello "did not wage dialectical war by imposing doctrines, but rather communicated the love of God," writes the Pope, and "was a fruitful father who awakened the dream of a fraternal society" (2-4). The encyclical aims to promote a worldwide aspiration to brotherhood and social friendship. From a common belonging to the human family, from the fact of recognizing ourselves as brothers because we are children of a single Creator, all in the same boat and therefore needing to be aware that in a globalized and interconnected world we can only save ourselves together. An inspiring motif cited several times is the "Document on Human Fraternity" signed by Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February 2019.
Fraternity must be promoted not only with words, but with deeds. Facts that materialize in the "best policy", one that is not subject to the interests of finances, but rather at the service of the common good, capable of putting the dignity of each human being at the center and ensuring work for all, so that everyone can develop their own abilities. A policy that, far from populism, knows how to find solutions to what threatens fundamental human rights and that is aimed at definitively eliminating hunger and trafficking. At the same time, Pope Francis underlines that a more just world is achieved by promoting peace, which is not only the absence of war, but a true "handmade" work that involves everyone. Linked to the truth, peace and reconciliation must be "proactive", aiming at justice through dialogue, in the name of reciprocal development. Hence derives the Pontiff's condemnation of war, "denial of all rights" and that is no longer conceivable, not even in a hypothetical "just" way, because nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have enormous repercussions on innocent civilians.
The rejection of the death penalty is also strong, defined as "inadmissible" because "it will always be a crime to kill a man", and central is the call for forgiveness, connected to the concept of memory and justice: to forgive does not mean to forget, writes the Pontiff, nor give up defending one's rights in order to safeguard one's own dignity, a gift from God. In the background of the encyclical is the Covid pandemic that – Francis reveals – “when I was writing this letter, it broke out unexpectedly”. But the global health emergency has served to demonstrate that "no one is saved alone" and that the time has come for us to "dream as one humanity" in which we are "all brothers" (7-8).
Global problems require global action, “no” to the “culture of walls”
Opened by a brief introduction and divided into eight chapters, the encyclical collects – as the Pope himself explains – many of his reflections on fraternity and social friendship, but placed "in a broader context" and complemented by "numerous documents and letters » sent to Francis by «so many people and groups from all over the world» (5). In the first chapter, “The shadows of a closed world”, the document focuses on the numerous distortions of the contemporary era: the manipulation and distortion of concepts such as democracy, freedom or justice; the loss of the sense of the social and of history; selfishness and lack of interest in the common good; the prevalence of a market logic based on profit and the culture of discarding; unemployment, racism, poverty; the inequality of rights and its aberrations, such as slavery, trafficking, women subjected to and then forced to have abortions, and organ trafficking (10-24). These are global problems that require global actions, the Pope emphasizes, also sounding the alarm against a "culture of walls" that favors the proliferation of mafias, fueled by fear and loneliness (27-28). In addition, today, there is a deterioration of ethics (29) to which the mass media contribute, in a certain way, that destroy respect for the other and eliminate all modesty, creating isolated and self-referential virtual circles, in which freedom is an illusion and dialogue is not constructive (42-50).
Love builds bridges: the example of the good samaritan
To many shadows, however, the encyclical responds with a luminous example, a harbinger of hope: that of the "good Samaritan." The second chapter, “A stranger on the road”, is dedicated to this figure, and in it the Pope emphasizes that, in a sick society that turns its back on pain and is “illiterate” in caring for the weak and frail ( 64-65), we are all called – like the good Samaritan – to be close to the other (81), overcoming prejudices, personal interests, historical or cultural barriers. All of us, in fact, are co-responsible for building a society that knows how to include, integrate and lift up those who have fallen or are suffering (77). Love builds bridges and we are "made for love" (88), adds the Pope, exhorting Christians in particular to recognize Christ in the face of all the excluded (85). The principle of the capacity to love according to "a universal dimension" (83) is also taken up in the third chapter, "Thinking and creating an open world": in it, Francis exhorts us to "come out of ourselves" to find in the others «a growth of his being» (88), opening ourselves to our neighbor according to the dynamism of charity that makes us tend towards «universal communion» (95). After all -recalls the encyclical- the spiritual stature of human life is defined by love that is always "first" and leads us to seek the best for the lives of others, far from all selfishness (92-93).
Rights have no borders, ethics is necessary in international relations
A fraternal society will be one that promotes education for dialogue in order to defeat the "virus of radical individualism" (105) and allow everyone to give their best. From the protection of the family and respect for its "primary and essential educational mission" (114). In particular there are two "instruments" to achieve this type of society: benevolence, that is, the concrete desire for the good of the other (112), and solidarity that deals with fragility and is expressed in service to others. people and not ideologies, fighting against poverty and inequality (115). The right to live with dignity cannot be denied to anyone, says the Pope, and since rights have no borders, no one can be excluded, regardless of where they were born (121). From this point of view, the Pope also recalls that it is necessary to think of "an ethics of international relations" (126), because every country is also from abroad and the goods of the territory cannot be denied to those in need who come from another. place. Therefore, the natural right to private property will be secondary to the principle of the universal destination of created goods (120). The encyclical also specifically underlines the issue of foreign debt: without prejudice to the principle that it must be paid, it is hoped, however, that this does not compromise the growth and livelihood of the poorest countries (126).
Migrants: global governance for long-term projects
Part of the second and all of the fourth chapter, “An open heart to the whole world”, is dedicated to the theme of migration. Migrants must be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated, with their “lives torn apart” (37), fleeing from wars, persecutions, natural disasters, unscrupulous traffickers, and uprooted from their communities of origin. Unnecessary migration must be avoided, affirms the Pontiff, creating in the countries of origin concrete possibilities to live with dignity. But at the same time, the right to seek a better life elsewhere must be respected. In the countries of destination, the appropriate balance will be that between the protection of the rights of citizens and the guarantee of reception and assistance to migrants (38-40). Specifically, the Pope points out some "essential responses" especially for those fleeing "serious humanitarian crises": increase and simplify the granting of visas; open humanitarian corridors; guarantee housing, security and essential services; offer job and training opportunities; encourage family reunification; protect minors; guarantee religious freedom and promote social inclusion. The Pope also invites the establishing of the concept of "full citizenship" in society, renouncing the discriminatory use of the term "minorities" (129-131). What is needed, above all – the document reads – is a global governance, an international collaboration for migrations that launches long-term projects, that go beyond individual emergencies (132), in the name of a development in solidarity of all peoples based on the principle of gratuitousness. In this way, countries can think of themselves as "one human family" (139-141). The other different from us is a gift and an enrichment for all, Francis writes, because the differences represent a possibility of growth (133-135). A healthy culture is a welcoming culture that knows how to open up to the other, without giving up on itself, offering something authentic. As in a polyhedron – an image appreciated by the Pontiff – the whole is more than the individual parts, but each one of them is respected in its value (145-146).
Politics, one of the most precious forms of charity.
The theme of the fifth chapter is "The best politics", that is, one of the most precious forms of charity because it is at the service of the common good (180) and knows the importance of people, understood as an open category, available for confrontation and dialogue (160). This is, in a certain sense, the popularism indicated by Francis, which is opposed to that "populism" that ignores the legitimacy of the notion of "people", attracting consensus to instrumentalize it at its own service and promoting selfishness to increase its popularity (159). But the best politics is also the one that protects work, "an inalienable dimension of social life" and tries to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to develop their own abilities (162). The best help for a poor person, explains the Pope, is not only money, which is a temporary remedy, but the fact of allowing him to live a decent life through work. The real strategy to combat poverty does not have as its objective simply to contain or render harmless the indigent, but rather to promote them from the point of view of solidarity and subsidiarity (187). It is also the task of politics to find a solution to everything that threatens fundamental human rights, such as social exclusion; trafficking in organs, tissues, weapons, and drugs; sexual exploitation; slave labor; terrorism and organized crime. Strong is the Pope's call to definitively eliminate trafficking, "shame on humanity" and hunger, which is "criminal" because food is "an inalienable right" (188-189).
The market by itself does not solve everything. Reform of the UN is necessary
The politics that is needed, Francis underlines, is the one that says no to corruption, to inefficiency, to the misuse of power, to the lack of respect for the laws (177). It is a politics centered on human dignity and not subject to finance because "the market alone does not solve everything": the "ravages" caused by financial speculation have shown this (168). Popular movements assume, therefore, a particular importance: true "social poets" and "torrents of moral energy" must be involved in social, political and economic participation, subject, however, to greater coordination. In this way – the Pope affirms – it is possible to move from a politics “ towards the poor to a politics with and of the poor” (169). Another auspice present in the encyclical refers to the reform of the United Nations: faced with the predominance of the economic dimension that annuls the power of the individual State, in fact, the task of the United Nations will be to give substance to the concept of "family of nations" working for the common good, the eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights. Tirelessly resorting to "negotiation, good offices and arbitration" - the pontifical document affirms - the UN must promote the force of law over the law of force, favoring multilateral agreements that best protect even the weakest States ( 173-175).
The miracle of kindness
In the sixth chapter, "Dialogue and social friendship", there emerges the concept of life as "the art of meeting" with everyone, even with the peripheries of the world and with the original peoples, because "everyone can learn something, nobody is useless” (215). The true dialogue, in fact, is the one that allows respecting the point of view of the other, their legitimate interests and, above all, the truth of human dignity. Relativism is not a solution – the encyclical reads – because without universal principles and moral norms that prohibit intrinsic evil, the laws become only arbitrary impositions (206). In this perspective, the media play a particular role, which, without exploiting human weaknesses or bringing out the worst in us, should be oriented towards a generous encounter and closeness with the last, promoting closeness and a sense of the human family ( 205). Particular, then, is the Pope's appeal to the "miracle of a kind person", an attitude that must be recovered because it is "a star in the midst of darkness" and "a liberation from the cruelty that sometimes penetrates human relations , of the anxiety that does not let us think about others, of the distracted urgency» that prevail in contemporary times. A kind person, Francisco writes, creates a healthy coexistence and opens the way where exasperation destroys the bridges (222-224).
The art of peace and the importance of forgiveness
The seventh chapter "Paths of reunion", on the other hand, reflects on the value and promotion of peace. In it the Pope stresses that peace is linked to truth, justice and mercy. Far from the desire for revenge, it is "proactive" and aims to form a society based on service to others and the search for reconciliation and mutual development (227-229). In a society, everyone should feel “at home” – writes the Pope -. For this reason, peace is a "trade" that involves and concerns everyone and in which everyone must play their part. The task of peace does not let up and never ends, the Pope continues, and therefore it is necessary to put the human person, his dignity and the common good at the center of all action (230-232). Linked to peace is forgiveness: everyone must be loved without exception, says the encyclical, “but to love an oppressor is not to allow him to remain so; nor is it to make him think that what he does is acceptable. Moreover: those who suffer injustice must firmly defend their rights to safeguard their dignity, a gift from God (241-242). Forgiveness does not mean impunity, but justice and memory, because to forgive does not mean to forget, but to renounce the destructive force of evil and the desire for revenge. We must never forget “horrors” such as the Shoah , the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the persecutions and ethnic massacres – exhorts the Pope -. They must always be remembered, once again, so as not to anesthetize us and keep the flame of collective consciousness alive. It is equally important to remember good people, those who have chosen forgiveness and brotherhood (246-252).
Never again war, the failure of humanity!
One part of the seventh chapter focuses on war: it is not "a ghost of the past" -Francis stresses- but "a constant threat" and represents the "denial of all rights", "a failure of politics and humanity », «a shameful surrender, a defeat in the face of the forces of evil». In addition, due to the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that hurt many innocent civilians, today we can no longer think, as in the past, of a possible "just war", but we must firmly reaffirm "Never again war!" And considering that we are experiencing "a third world war in stages", because all conflicts are connected, the total elimination of nuclear weapons is "a moral and humanitarian imperative". Rather – the Pope suggests – with the money invested in weapons, a World Fund should be created to eliminate hunger (255-262).
The death penalty is inadmissible, it should be abolished worldwide
Francis expresses an equally clear position on the death penalty: it is inadmissible and must be abolished throughout the world. "Not even the murderer loses his personal dignity - writes the Pope - and God himself becomes his guarantor". Hence two exhortations: not to see punishment as revenge, but as part of a process of healing and social reintegration, and to improve prison conditions, respecting the human dignity of prisoners, also thinking that life imprisonment “is a hidden death penalty” (263-269). The need to respect "the sacredness of life" (283) is reaffirmed where today "parts of humanity seem expendable", such as the unborn, the poor, the disabled, the elderly (18).
Guaranteeing religious freedom, a fundamental human right
In the eighth and last chapter, the Pontiff deals with "Religions at the service of brotherhood in the world" and reiterates that violence is not based on religious convictions, but on their distortions. Acts as "execrable" as terrorist acts, therefore, are not due to religion, but to erroneous interpretations of religious texts, as well as to policies of hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression. Terrorism should not be supported with money or weapons, or with media coverage, because it is an international crime against world security and peace and as such must be condemned (282-283). At the same time, the Pope stresses that a path of peace between religions is possible and that it is therefore necessary to guarantee religious freedom, a fundamental human right for all believers (279). In particular, the encyclical reflects on the role of the Church: it does not relegate its mission to the private sphere, he states, it is not on the margins of society and, although it does not engage in politics, it does not, however, renounce the political dimension. of existence. Attention to the common good and concern for integral human development, in fact, concern humanity and everything that is human concerns the Church, according to the principles of the Gospel (276-278). Finally, reminding religious leaders of their role as "authentic mediators" dedicated to building peace, Francis cites the "Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Coexistence in Common," signed by himself on February 4 2019 in Abu Dhabi, together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb. From this milestone in interreligious dialogue, the Pontiff takes up the call that, in the name of human fraternity, dialogue be adopted as a path, common collaboration as a behavior and mutual knowledge as a method and criterion (285).
Blessed Charles de Foucauld, "the universal brother".
The encyclical concludes with the memory of Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and, above all, Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a model for all of what it means to identify with the least in order to become "the universal brother" (286-287 ). The last lines of the document are entrusted to two prayers: one "to the Creator" and the other "ecumenical Christian", so that in the hearts of men there may be "a spirit of brothers".
Romana, n. 70, January-December 2020, p. 22-28.