Encyclical’s Message Is Timely


The new encyclical, signed Oct. 3 by Pope Francis, is a welcome document indeed during these tumultuous months of pandemic, civil unrest and political turbulence.

Fratelli Tutti, translated as “all brothers and sisters,” reminds us that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.”

The 40,000 word encyclical—Francis’ second—is at once a sobering and hopeful reflection on the state of the world which, while written from a Christian perspective, is meant also as “an invitation to dialogue among all people.”

The encyclical is sobering in its recognition of the social injustices and alienation that the pope sees in the contemporary world, yet hopeful in offering a vision toward achieving a way of life rooted in the “universal fraternity” that aligns with God’s plan.

Hindering that fraternity, he wrote, are trends like racism, excessive nationalism, political polarization and economic policies that help the rich get richer but do nothing for the poor.

Drawing on the parable of the Good Samaritan, the pope also makes clear that we’re called to care for our neighbors, and that doesn’t mean just the people next door. It means welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry and caring for others in need regardless of where they live or were born.

“The parable,” he wrote, “shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others.”

In the encyclical, Francis also repeats his previous condemnation of the death penalty, and questions whether the concept of a “just war” is still a relevant concept.

There’s a lot to digest, certainly, in the encyclical, the full title of which is “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” and it’s a long read for those of us accustomed to the Instagram mode of communication.

But the beauty of a papal encyclical is that it does not have to be read all in one sitting. In fact, it’s better to pick it up at intervals and read it in sections, savoring the ideas and meditating on them as they apply to our own lives.

Fratelli Tutti itself was encouraged by an exceptional act of fraternity: Its framework is based around the document on human fraternity and interreligious dialogue that Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, signed in 2019.

The pope further underlined the encyclical’s message by traveling to the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, on the vigil of the saint’s feast day, where he celebrated Mass and signed the document.

St. Francis, of course, is known for fostering brotherly love and peace in his own teachings and in the mission of the Franciscan Order he founded. We’d like to think he’d have approved of the message put forth by his papal namesake.

We certainly do, and we hope that all who read it will take it to heart.

The encyclical is available online at www.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html.