Fratelli Tutti by Pope Francis
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2020 - 12:00am

Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers) : On Fraternity and Social Relationships is the third and latest papal encyclical of Pope Francis. This document follows the papal tradition of issuing important letters or encyclicals to the world on matters the pope thinks is urgent and the world must meditate on.

Pope Francis signed this encyclical on Oct. 3, 2020 in Assisi at the tomb of Francis of Assisi in the basilica after celebrating mass in front of the tomb. This was the first time a papal encyclical was signed outside Rome. It was also the first time Pope Francis traveled outside Rome since the COVID-19 pandemic. The text of the encyclical was published by the Vatican on Oct. 4, 2020, the feast day of Francis of Assisi.

As an aside, this was especially interesting to me as my wife and I visited the tomb of St. Francis five years ago.

In his Introduction, Pope Francis wrote that in the writing of his encyclical Laudato Si, he had been inspired by Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch, the nominal head of the Eastern Orthodox Church who had also advocated for the care of the environment. Pope Francis writes:

“In this case, I have felt particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayeb, with whom I met in Abu Dhabi where we declared that ‘God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity and has called them to live together as  brothers and sisters.’ This was no mere diplomatic gesture but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment. The present Encyclical takes up and develops some of the great themes raised in the document that we both signed. I have also incorporated along with my thoughts a number of letters, documents and considerations that I have received from many individuals and groups throughout the world. “

It is also noteworthy that in his many writings, Pope Francis has said he has been inspired by Francis of Assisi and many non-Catholics including Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and Mahatma Gandhi.

The encyclical is composed of an Introduction and eight chapters and is roughly 43,000 words long. Before reading this encyclical, I did a little research for a guide on how to read and understand this document. Here is a summary of the guide for those planning to read the encyclical in full. This is not for those who will simply look for a short summary. My principal source is the National Catholic Reporter.

The first thing is that if you really want to understand, do not try to read more than one chapter in one sitting. This is truly heavy reading and needs time to digest. One weekend is not even enough to digest the whole document.

The second thing is this encyclical repeats many quotations that have been written before in other writings by Francis. Those following the pope’s writings will recognize many lessons and principles that have been the guide for his papacy. The NCR writes: “For those who have not been paying attention, the encyclical will be a grand introduction to the thought animating this papacy.  There may also be a theological strategy behind all these quotes. By incorporating past sayings from homilies, speeches and statements into an encyclical, one of the highest levels of teaching in the church, he raises their authority.”

In effect these citations and quotations are now officially part of an encyclical and are now official teaching of the church.

The third thing is that unlike his first two encyclicals, there is very little here that would be considered highly controversial. There is nothing about internal church issues like marriage for priests or about LGBTQ. He mentions abortion only once and says little about women.

The fourth thing is that although it does make specific proposals, it is more about attitudes and values and programs. The Pope, for example, speaks eloquently about kindness not just as a personal virtue but one that needs to permeate culture.

Francis, however, says that politicians should not be too concerned about a drop in the polls but about finding effective solutions to “...the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.”

The fifth thing about this encyclical is that it was written for the world and not just for Catholics.

In the Introduction, Francis wrote: “As I was writing this letter, the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly erupted, exposing our false securities. Aside from the different ways that various countries have responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident. “

I have only read the Introduction. As I read the eight chapters I will probably share my own thoughts with my readers. However, I already discovered that the Introduction ends with almost poetic words:

“By ourselves we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together. Let us dream then as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”

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An invitation for online classes for writers of all ages:

Adult series on writing family histories, Oct. 17, 2-3:30 p.m.

Young writers’ hangout, Oct. 24, 2-3 p.m. Contact 0945.2273216

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