Pope Francis

Fratelli Tutti is a social encyclical whose title comes from the “Admonitions” of St. Francis of Assisi who used these words, Fratelli Tutti,  to “address his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel.” Living in a globalized and interconnected world, we can only be saved together. Fraternity is to be encouraged in actions made tangible in a politics which is dedicated to serving the common good, able to place the dignity of every human being at the center and assure work to everyone so that each one can develop his or her own abilities and is achieved when everyone takes their personal responsibility to promote truth, peace, and reconciliation.

The contemporary era is clouded by various distortions among whom are the manipulation and deformation of concepts such as democracy, freedom, justice; the loss of the meaning of the social community and history; selfishness and indifference; a market logic based on profit and the culture of waste and never respects human life and dignity. The current moment is also characterized by a “culture of walls” that favors the proliferation of organized crime, fuelled by fear and loneliness (27-28); a deterioration of ethics (29), contributed to, in a certain way, by the mass media which shatter respect for others and eliminate all discretion, creating isolated and self-referential virtual circles, in which freedom is an illusion and dialogue is not constructive (42-50). To this ugly situation, the Pope responds with a herald of hope in the second chapter, A Stranger on the Road, which he dedicates to the figure of the good Samaritan. In an unhealthy society that turns its back on the suffering of others, and we are all called – just like the Good Samaritan – to become neighbors to others (81).

A fraternal society is one that promotes educating in dialogue in order to defeat the “virus” of “radical individualism” (105) and to allow everyone to give the best of themselves using the tools of benevolence, that is, truly wanting the good for the other, and solidarity which cares for the fragility and is expressed in service to people and not to ideologies, fighting against poverty and inequality. Everyone has the right to live with dignity. We need to consider “ethics of international relations” (126) because every country also belongs to foreigners and the goods of the territory cannot be denied to those who are in need and come from another place. Thus, the natural right to private property will be secondary to the principal of the universal destination of created goods (120). Foreign debt is subject to the principle: it must be paid without compromising the growth and subsistence of the poorest countries (126).

Migrants are to be welcomed, protected, supported, and integrated. Unnecessary migration needs to be avoided by creating concrete opportunities to live with dignity in the countries of origin. Seeking a better life elsewhere is a right that needs to be respected. In receiving countries, there has to be a right balance between the protection of citizens’ rights and the guarantee of welcome and assistance for migrants (38-40). We need to establish in society the concept of “full citizenship”, and to reject the discriminatory use of the term “minorities” (129-131). A healthy culture is a welcoming culture that is able to open up to others, without renouncing itself, offering them something authentic. The whole is more than its single parts, but the value of each one of them is respected (145-146).

A better kind of politics represents one of the most valuable forms of charity because it is placed at the service of the common good (180) and recognizes the importance of people, understood as an open category, available for discussion and dialogue (160). A better politics is also one that protects work, an “essential dimension of social life”, and seeks to ensure everyone the opportunity to develop their own abilities (162). The task of politics, moreover, is to find a solution to all that attacks fundamental human rights, such as social exclusion; the marketing of organs, tissues, weapons, and drugs; sexual exploitation; slave labor; terrorism, and organized crime.

The marketplace, by itself, cannot resolve every problem. It requires a reform of the UN. The politics we need are one that is centered on human dignity and not subjected to finance because “the marketplace, by itself, cannot resolve every problem”: the “havoc” wreaked by financial speculation has demonstrated this (168).  In the face of the predominance of the economic dimension which nullifies the power of the individual state, the task of the United Nations will be to give substance to the concept of a “family of nations” working for the common good, the eradication of indigence and the protection of human rights.

Life is the “art of encounter” with everyone since “each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and no one is expendable” (215). True dialogue, indeed, is what allows one to respect the point of view of others, their legitimate interests, and, above all, the truth of human dignity. The media’s role must be directed toward generous encounters and to closeness with the least, promoting proximity and the sense of human family (205). Kindness is an attitude to be recovered because it is a star “shining in the midst of darkness” and “frees us from the cruelty …  the anxiety … the frantic flurry of activity” that prevails in the contemporary era.

Peace is connected to truth, justice, and mercy. It is “proactive” and aims at forming a society based on service to others and on the pursuit of reconciliation and mutual development (227-229). It is an “art” that involves and regards everyone and in which each one must do his or her part. Forgiveness is linked to peace: we must love everyone, without exception but loving an oppressor means helping him to change and not allowing him to continue oppressing his neighbor. On the contrary: one who suffers an injustice must vigorously defend his rights in order to safeguard his dignity, a gift of God (241-242). Forgiveness does not mean impunity, but rather, justice and remembrance, because to forgive does not mean to forget but to renounce the destructive power of evil and the desire for revenge.

War is a constant threat and it represents “the negation of all rights”, “a failure of politics and of humanity”, and “a stinging defeat before the forces of evil” which lies in their “abyss”.  We are experiencing a “world war fought piecemeal”, because all conflicts are interconnected and, therefore, the total elimination of nuclear arms is “a moral and humanitarian imperative”. The money invested in weapons can instead establish a global fund for the elimination of hunger (255-262).

The death penalty inadmissible and has to be abolished. Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity. Punishment shouldn’t be viewed as vindictive, but rather as part of a process of healing and of social reintegration, and to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the inmates, also considering that “a life sentence is a secret death penalty” (263-269).

Religions are at the service of fraternity in our world. Violence has no basis in religious convictions, but rather in their deformities. Deplorable acts such as acts of terrorism are not due to religion but to erroneous interpretations of religious texts, as well as “policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression”. Terrorism must not be supported in any way. A journey of peace among religions is possible and that it is, therefore, necessary to guarantee religious freedom, a fundamental human right for all believers (279). The Church does not “restrict her mission to the private sphere.” She does not remain at the margins of society and, while not engaging in politics, however, she does not renounce the political dimension of life itself. Attention to the common good and concern for integral human development, in fact, concern humanity, and all that is human concerns the Church (276-278). Religious leaders are “authentic mediators” who expend themselves in order to build peace. In the name of human fraternity, dialogue needs to be adopted as the way, common cooperation as conduct, and mutual knowledge as method and standard (285).

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