Pope Francis has a gift for touching key issues. As he did with Laudato Si 5 years ago, so he has done again with his latest Encyclical devoted to human fraternity and social friendship, Fratelli tutti. Like its predecessor, it too gives the first words to St Francis, and it too will have a wide appeal.
It is an important contribution to the social teaching of the Church.
The Encyclical affirms the simple truth that we are brothers and sisters, living in a common home and sharing one Father. It is an appeal, springing from both Christian faith and common humanity, that we recognise this truth and live it out. How can we not hope that the Pope’s words will be widely welcomed and put into practice?
We are living, says the Pope, in a “closed world” under “dark clouds”. He is nothing if not realistic about our current predicaments. We must open up or asphyxiate ourselves. In the light of parable of the Good Samaritan, in the presence of so many “strangers on the road”, Pope Francis calls for an “opening of the world” made possible by an “opening of the heart” to the other, a conscious and careful cultivation of our common humanity and common dignity. He proposes a broad gamut of ways forward – for a “better kind of politics”, for gratuitous love, towards greater social friendship, overdue reconciliations, the recovering of kindness. He calls for a firm “no” to war. The Encyclical is a proposal for the large stage and also for the smaller, local worlds we all inhabit. The Pope sees that, contrary to a common view, religion has positive things to offer here. He re-iterates the call to fraternity and dialogue he shared with the Grand Mufti last year.
He ends with the figure of Bl. Charles de Foucauld whose passion to follow Christ filled him with the longing to be a “universal brother”.
I hope our parish and other communities will take time to study this Encyclical and help us live out its call to brotherly / sisterly love in practical ways.
The Pope, like his predecessors on so many occasions, is offering the world (which is “us”, not “them”) a chance to change and live. May we take it!
Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB