“Fratelli tutti”

HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - January 27, 2021 - 12:00am

That’s the title of the latest encyclical of Pope Francis that was issued last October 3, the vigil of the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi who coined that expression. That’s the Italian for “Brothers all”, and with those words the Pope makes a very extensive description of how Christian fraternity and social friendship should be, especially in the context of today’s very complicated world.

St. Francis, of course, was known for his special love for the poor and for animals and for all of God’s creation that he even called the sun and the moon as Brother Sun and Sister Moon. He considered everything as “fratelli tutti” to mankind.

When I started reading the encyclical, I cannot help but feel a bit uncomfortable since it was asking for something that I considered as impossible to do. It was talking about the right of man to migrate practically anywhere anytime, especially if one is pressured to do so for some urgent reasons.

It also talked about having open borders, to welcome practically everyone to our country and homes, to give special attention and care to unexpected and uninvited people who usually bring with them big problems, etc. I found all this quite relevant to us in our country, since we have lots of OFWs and people migrating to other countries.

Feeling a bit uncomfortable was my first impression which, of course, changed as I continued reading the document. I remember my childhood days when my mother was so open to receive beggars at home that they practically crowded our home daily. They would freely enter the kitchen area and wait to be given food or alms.

At a certain point, my father complained because the beggars were already disturbing the peace at home and that of his law office which was also located at home. I understood the position of my father, but I also liked what my mother did.

So I was a bit torn between the two, though I tried to agree with both of them. Or said in another way, I did not take sides. Both have good reasons for their positions. I just assumed the wait-and-see attitude, knowing that one way or another, sooner or later, some resolution of the issue would be made.

Anyway, as I continued reading the encyclical, I got impressed by the very extensive, incisive, and finely-nuanced treatment of the subject matter. Indeed, we really have to care for one another, since we are all brothers and sisters, all children of God, subjects and objects of our all-out love, irrespective of our temporal differences and conflicts, and our worldly conditions and statuses that can vary very widely, increasingly and complicatedly.

Yes, we should be willing to be the Good Samaritan as Christ wants us to be and as the Pope now reminds us of. We should be willing to inconvenience ourselves if only to help anyone, especially the one in some urgent and special need.

But the encyclical also mentioned about the rule of law that should always be upheld, although it is asking that our laws should be more and more inspired by the true Christian spirit of fraternity and social friendship.

This is where, I think, the big challenge is. We have to find ways and mechanisms of how our laws, social structures, cultures, attitudes, etc. can truly capture the Christian spirit of brotherhood and friendship. A very tall order!

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