Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
On the 3rd of October 2020, Pope Francis signed a new encyclical letter addressed to the whole Church and, I would say also, to all people of goodwill. The title comes from the introductory words of a letter written by St Francis of Assisi to his brothers and sisters, and these big words were Fratelli Tutti. The Pope, in paragraph no. 8 of this encyclical, tells us what his project is in this new and very beautiful document. He says: “It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Brotherhood between all men and women. ‘Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation. We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… 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 travellers 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.”
Fratelli Tutti is divided into 8 chapters. The first chapter is really a diagnosis of the state of the world at the moment and Pope Francis looks at the world and uses this very strong image, “dark clouds over a closed world”. And so, he talks about our shattered dreams, our lack of a plan for everyone, that is we are not being inclusive enough, and he also looks at the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the temptation to close in on ourselves.
In Chapter 2, however, he uses a beautiful image given by Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke and the parable of the Good Samaritan gives us a theme of true fraternity: brotherhood that goes beyond borders as the Pope would say; a brotherhood that looks at the other person without any prejudices. “Neighbours without borders” is a very important phrase introduced by Francis in this new encyclical.
Chapter 3 talks about this great dream of an open world moving beyond ourselves, a love which is more open, more inclusive, beyond the world of associates, that is loving those who love us or we can actually gain something from, and the Pope talks about promoting the moral good as a leaven for solidarity.
Chapter 4 is about a heart open to the whole world so the Pope actually invites us to share our gifts, a fruitful exchange of these gifts with an open heart, freely, is the basis of this new fraternity that the Pope is promoting. There is a local flavour that we bring to the common table and everybody is enriched by the gift of the other.
Chapter 5 talks about a better kind of politics, a politics that goes beyond the interests of communities as closed societies, and truly looks for and promotes the common good, the common good of our common home. So political service is the service of love but it has to integrate and unite peoples.
Chapter 6 is a very beautiful commentary and meditation on the basis of friendship in society and true friendship has to be based on true authentic relationship. The Pope tells us that we need a new culture of encounter and the joy of acknowledging others.
Chapter 7 talks about this renewed encounter, so friendship is also promoting a culture of encounter, and this is the basis of a true art and architecture of peace. There are very interesting paragraphs on the gift of reconciliation. It’s not forgetting but it’s actually remembering to move on together as a sign of true peace. In fact, the Pope has some prophetic words on the injustice of war and the injustice of the death penalty.
Chapter 8, the concluding paragraph, looks at religions, condemns the misuse and abuse of religions as instruments of promoting hatred and division and promotes religions as a means of respecting each other’s identity, looking to God as our own Creator and looking at each other as the sons and daughters of one God.
“The following pages”, the Pope says at no. 6, “do not claim to offer complete teaching on fraternal love, but rather to consider its universal scope, its openness to every man and woman. I offer this social encyclical as a modest contribution to continued reflection, in the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words. Although I have written it from the Christian convictions that inspire and sustain me”, the Pope says “I have sought to make this reflection an invitation to dialogue among all people of goodwill.”
The closing words of this beautiful document are actually words of prayer. There is a prayer by the Holy Father to the Creator, and an ecumenical Christian prayer. Let us hope that we all read and receive this beautiful teaching of Pope Francis and that we become witnesses to this fraternity based on social friendship.