Fratelli tutti is the third encyclical of Francis’ seven-year papacy. And once again he has taken St Francis as his inspiration, imagining a more fraternal and just society. He signed the encyclical at the Tomb of St Francis on 3rd October on the eve of the saint’s feast day.
The Pope tells us clearly, “Francis has inspired these pages.”
The wide-ranging message is a cry from the heart. Francis lays out a comprehensive vision for how the world needs to change after the coronavirus pandemic. “If only this may prove not to be just another tragedy of history from which we learned nothing. Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation.”
Among things the Pope puts up for discussion are trickledown economics, the world’s unfair distribution of wealth, continued use of the just war theory and the death penalty, and populist leaders who appeal to people’s “basest and most selfish inclinations.”
Francis longs for a different social dynamic, “If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another. God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us.’ “
One commentator has written, “If this pandemic does not shake us out of our post-modern cultural and moral and spiritual lethargy, what will? In this Encyclical Pope Francis is throwing the Catholic Church and the whole world a lifeline. Will we grab it?”
The first few paragraphs speaks of the example of St Francis:
1. “FRATELLI TUTTI”. With these words, Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavour of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother “as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him”. In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.
2. This saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy, who inspired me to write the Encyclical Laudato Si’, prompts me once more to devote this new Encyclical to fraternity and social friendship. Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew that he was even closer to those of his own flesh. Wherever he went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.”
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