“Go and Do the Same: An Overview of Fratelli Tutti”
Virtual Event for the Priests of the Archdiocese of New York
October 26, 2020
Dear Brother Bishops, Priests, and Deacons,
It is a real joy for me to be with you today. I have already met many of you since my arrival in New York in January. I hope, once the pandemic is over, to have the chance to meet the rest of you, at the Chrism Mass in Holy Week or other joyful occasions.
Thank you for your daily yes as priests. Thank you for your service of God and the Church. Thank you for your desire to think with the Church as together we look at Pope Francis’ latest encyclical.
“Fratelli tutti.” The Holy Father took the title of the new encyclical from Saint Francis of Assisi’s Admonitions to the first Franciscan friars, to regard each other — and everyone to whom they were sent out as humble friars to serve — as “all brothers and sisters,” as siblings.
Pope Francis looks to Saint Francis not only for his radical adherence to Christ, his love for the poor, his gratitude for the environment, and so many other factors for which in 2013 he took the name “Francis” upon election, but also because il poverello expresses the essence of the type of virtues Pope Francis wants to highlight in this encyclical: the virtues of fraternity and social friendship.
Toward the end of the document, he references other examples of these virtues, namely Martin Luther King, Junior; Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu; and Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the inspirer of the Iesu Caritas movement to which so many priests across the world belong in order to grow in priestly fraternity and mutual support.
Pope Francis said that the audience to whom he was writing was “all people of good will.” He was seeking to engage the whole world in dialogue. That choice obviously impacts the literary style of the encyclical: it’s going to feature far less ecclesiastical terminology and Biblical citations, for example, than a typical encyclical written to members of the Catholic household.
He said that in this encyclical he wanted to develop various of the important themes that he and the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, put together in their “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living together,” signed in Abu Dhabi in February 2019. By expanding upon those ideas in an encyclical, Pope Francis was not only bringing them to the greater attention of Catholics, but also expanding upon them to all peoples throughout the world.
Pope Francis admitted that in Fratelli Tutti he was not intending to give an exhaustive presentation on fraternal love, but what he wanted to do was to describe and help engender “a new vision of fraternity and social friendship” that will respond to a situation in which so many are forgotten, ignored, or even eliminated.
He said, with hope, that one of the goods that he believes God has been bringing out of the disruption and death of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a renewed sense that we’re all in this together. As he said at the United Nations in a video message a month ago, “We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse.” And this encyclical, written in the midst of the pandemic, is a contribution to help us all come out better.
The structure of the encyclical
The encyclical is basically broken down into ten parts: an introduction; eight chapters; and then two prayers at the end, one to the Creator and another ecumenical prayer to God the Trinity.
The chapters begin with the state of the world, then with a beautiful reflection on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Then in Chapter Three Pope Francis tries to sketch a vision based on the lessons Christ teaches us in the parable and, in Chapter Four, apply those lessons to those people — migrants and refugees — who are making a journey, like the man mugged on the road to Jerusalem to Jericho, sometimes suffering similar attacks.
In the fifth Chapter, the Holy Father describes his vision for a better kind of politics, one in which a particular form of charity is at work, at the local, national, regional and international levels.
In Chapter Six, Pope Francis talks about dialogue and friendship and the culture of encounter.
In Chapter Seven, he talks about healing the wounds of those who have suffered tremendous injustice and sketches the path of peace in moving away from a mentality of retaliation to one of justice, memory, forgiveness and reconciliation.
And in the final Chapter, the Holy Father talks specifically about the role of religions and religious leaders in setting an example not just for adherents but for the whole world of the type of fraternity and social friendship the world needs.
So that’s our itinerary. I would like to begin, however, with what I think is the heart of the entire encyclical, Chapter 2, where Pope Francis discusses Jesus’ famous Parable of the Good Samaritan and applies the lessons not just to our own individual hearts but to international relations, in terms of how we care for those who are suffering.
The Good Samaritan
Throughout his papacy — in fact, since his address to Cardinal Dolan and the other cardinals assembled in Rome in the days before the 2013 conclave — Pope Francis has been urging the Church to “go out” into the peripheries of existence and to care for those who are left behind, suffering, even dying, without anyone much noticing or caring.
He has sought to awaken the Church to our vocation and mission as our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers. He wants to help us all to see that, just like Cain was responsible for his brother Abel, so we are all responsible for our brothers and sisters in need across the world. Their innocent blood shed, their sufferings, cry out to heaven — and God has given us ears to hear their cries, too.
We all know the Parable of the Good Samaritan very well, preaching on it in Lent and at daily Mass each year and, in Year C, like we have this year, at Sunday Mass.
Pope Francis links it, first, to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount about the Golden Rule, doing to others what we would want done to us. If we were ever mugged and left for dead, everyone would hope people would come to help us. If we were in abject poverty, we would hope someone would send aid. If we were forced to flee because of violence or poverty, we would hope that we would not meet slammed doors or impenetrable fences.
Likewise he links the Parable to Jesus’ words about the general judgment, that he’ll separate us like sheep and goats into two groups on the basis of our care for him in the disguise of the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, ill or imprisoned. The Fathers of the Church, as you know, interpreted the Parable by saying Jesus is the Good Samaritan, we’re the victim, and the Church is the inn. When Jesus tells us, “Go and do the same,” he’s not only telling us to pay his charity forward, but he’s making it even easier, saying that whatever we do to our most need brother or sister, he will take personally.
Pope Francis says that in contrast to a “globalized indifference,” God wants us truly to care for each other, to open our hearts and take time to care for the suffering and abandoned we meet.
He says very powerfully, “There are only two kinds of people: those who care for someone who is hurting and those who pass by” (70). “Each day,” he adds, “we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders.” (69)
The Holy Father applies these lessons to the economic, political, social and macro-religious spheres. “The decision to include or exclude those lying along the roadside,” he says, “can serve as a criterion for judging” the actions taken at all of these levels.
Many of us and many of our leaders, he said, however, act as if they’re unaware of the parable. So many are living in what he calls a “desolate byway” where everyone ignores them and passes them by. When we do, he says, we become “secret allies” of the bandits like those who attacked the man in the Parable. We allow the thieves to get away with their evil and do nothing for the victim. Even religious believers can behave this way, he said.
The response is for us to become a neighbor, to recognize that the whole world is our neighborhood, and to draw near to those who need the help we can provide. Once we recognize that we are called to be neighbor to everyone in need, then we can progress to being a true brother or sister.
I would like to highlight a few final points about Chapter 2.
Pope Francis says that we should not overlook that Jesus mentions that the one who came to the aid of the presumably Jewish victim was a Samaritan, a foreigner, someone with whom the Jews had centuries of animosity. This detail shows us that concern must transcend boundaries or prejudices.
He also stressed the importance of working together. The Samaritan couldn’t do it all on his own. But together with the inn-keeper, he could give the victim a chance. Likewise, at every level, there’s a need to respond to those in need in a coordinated fashion, with all organically doing their part.
There are also some words for those of us who have the privilege to preach and teach. The Pope is asking us to preach more directly and clearly:
- About our social nature made in the image of God who is a communion of Persons;
- About the fraternal dimension of our spirituality, that we pray not “my Father” but “our Father.”
- About the inalienable dignity of every person, including those whom most often have their dignity denied in theory or in practice;
- About how we’re called to love and accept all our brothers and sisters, because Christ does not give any exceptions to those whom he calls us to love.
Let’s turn now briefly to the individual chapters to see how they cohere with Pope Francis’ vision of the Good Samaritan.
In Chapter 1, Pope Francis describes the many dark clouds that impede universal fraternity. He mentions many, from war, to polarization, to consumerism, to modern slaver, abortion, euthanasia, racism, unemployment and poverty.
All of these troubling phenomena, he says, have made it harder for us to relate to each other as brothers, as members of the same family. We objectify others and their problems. They become a “them” rather than an “us.”
Pope Francis says that the pandemic, thankfully, has “momentarily revived” a familial sense, when we see how a tiny virus in one part of the world can stop the rest of it and how the collective efforts of people throughout the world are necessary to respond to it.
The Pope specifically cited the valor of so many of the “heroes of the pandemic” as examples. I know some of you are among those heroes, in your care for the sick in hospitals. Thank you for putting the parable into practice in that way that has made every priest so proud to be numbered with you.
We turn now to Chapter 3, where Pope Francis begins to outline a worldview where we cross the road, moved by compassion, fraternity, and friendship.
He mentions several virtues that are needed: self-sacrificial love, sincerity, hospitality, solidarity, cooperation, responsibility, and benevolence. Our spiritual stature, he says, is really measured by our love, how we seek others’ good for their own sake.
He introduces the term “social friendship” and says that this is a friendship that transcends borders, whether national borders or other classifications that can occasionally divide people. Just as the Samaritan cared for a wounded Jew, so we’re called to care for everyone, including, as Dorothy Day used to say, those we like the least.
The problem today, Pope Francis says, is that many don’t want to treat people as neighbors or brothers. The most they’re willing to do is to treat them as “partners” or “associates.” These are transactional terms, taken from business. Pope Francis is calling us to more.
In what to me seems like a clear outreach to the daughters and sons of the Enlightenment, Pope Francis mentions liberté, egalité, et fraternité, the battle cry of the French Revolution, before saying that we’ll only have true freedom and equality when we have a genuine fraternity based on the dignity of each person. Part of another’s dignity is the recognition of a common Creator and therefore of our mutual kinship.
Pope Francis also mentions in this chapter that economics must be centered on the good of persons and the common good. It must be at the service of people rather than force people to be at its service.
He mentions the traditional Catholic teaching of the universal destination of created goods, together with the principle of private property, mentioning that the universal destination of created goods obliges not just individuals but also countries.
He also describes how we’re all summoned to be stewards of our common home. Part of fraternity, as many of us learned growing up, is to care for our house.
All of this calls, Pope Francis said, for “an alternative way of thinking.” He was trying to help us to think that way in this section.
In Chapter 4, Pope Francis turns to what he calls the “complex challenges” arising when our neighbor is an immigrant.
The response to those who are refugees, migrants or internally-displaced must be, he said, gratuitousness, not utilitarianism. That generosity is seen, he said, in how we "welcome, protect, promote and integrate” those who have for one reason or another felt the need to leave their home and native place.
Pope Francis summarizes in his Chapter the basic human rights that always have to be met, with regard to food, basic medical care, family unity, adequate documentation, religious freedom, and education for children.
Care for those in need in this way also enrichers the care-giver because love always enriches. He says that helping those in this situation is likewise good for one’s own country, not only because of all of the creativity and industry immigrants bring, but also because it alleviates what could become a problem down the road, since poverty is a breeding ground for terrorism, revolution and other social phenomena.
Pope Francis likewise mentions that there’s a tension between caring for our more proximate neighbors (what he calls “localization”) and caring for people all across the world (what he terms “globalization"). The goal, he says, is to have a healthy sense of neighborhood in one’s locale and then take that to other relationships.
In the fifth chapter, Pope Francis describes a “better kind of politics truly at the service of the common good.” Without the political realm, there’s no chance for universal fraternity, social friendship and peace.
He describes politics as a “lofty vocation” and “one of the highest forms of charity,” because it seeks not just the individual good of another but the common good. He summons those in politics to what he calls “political love,” in contrast to a pursuit of power. Political love means genuinely caring for the good of others and working for it. Without political love so understood, he said that it will be impossible to form a civilization of love.
Not every politician, of course, behaves this way, or like the Statesman Saint Thomas More (on the accompanying slide). He says “populist” politicians are those who manipulate popular sentiment to the short-term advantage of certain segments of the population rather than everyone, leading to greater polarization. He contrasts “populist” politicians with “popular” movements and their leaders, saying that popular movements really do care about the people and are essential for democracy. In these paragraphs, Pope Francis has been developing what he’s said in various addresses to the popular movements of Latin America over the course of his pontificate.
Political love, Pope Francis says, always involves education, which passes this civic love on to the next generation; subsidiarity, which allows everyone to serve according to their capacities and helps emphasize neighborliness; and solidarity, which is the social expression of love.
In the sixth Chapter, Pope Francis describes the nature of dialogue. He speaks often about dialogue and this is perhaps the most well-developed explanation of what he means and doesn’t mean.
To bring about a social friendship and universal fraternity, we have to bring into a conversation not just of words or ideas but of lives — especially those who so often are excluded, forgotten and have no voice.
True dialogue, he says, does not involve parallel monologues of people tweeting feverishly. It’s a respectful encounter of those equal in dignity, which involves drawing near, listening, speaking, knowing, understanding and finding agreement.
When there’s a lack of dialogue, he says, quite perceptively, it shows that people are more interested in power than cooperation.
In an important part of this chapter, the Holy Father says that true dialogue can’t happen without the truth. In Greek, dialogue is dia-logos, it’s a journey toward the truth, and hence effective dialogue cannot take place in a relativistic context. It must be a consensual search for the truth, which, he emphasizes, we can know by reason. Without the coordinates of the truth, the interpretation of values will be done by those in power.
True dialogue, he adds, often involves some compromise. We mutually give up some non-essentials for the sake of the common good. This is common to every marriage, to every friendship, and is common to the dialogue at the root of social friendship.
In Chapter 7, Pope Francis tackles some of the deepest wounds that plague the world and tries to show the path to heal them so that there’s a possibility for universal fraternity, social friendship and peace.
He talks about atrocities like the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and other crimes against humanity that unfortunately still occur today.
What’s needed in these circumstances is the arduous path of “penitential memory,” truth, forgiveness and reconciliation. He gives a very helpful reflection of forgiveness, saying it doesn’t involve forgetting, or pretending that what one suffered wasn’t a big deal. “Those who truly forgive do not forget,” he writes, but they “choose not to yield to the same destructive force that caused them so much suffering.”
He mentions two extreme circumstances in which forgiveness is needed and in which often people resort to measures that rather than remedying the injustice just add to greater destruction.
The first is war. He says emphatically, “We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits.” He even says that it’s difficult to uphold any longer the possibility of a “just war,” since war always brings so much attendant destruction.
The second extreme situation involves the death penalty, something about which he has spoken a great deal during his papacy. He calls the death penalty today “inadequate,” “inadmissible” and “no longer necessary,” since, as John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, it is possible to render aggressors incapable of committing further harm by bloodless means.
Pope Francis also describes the various practical issues involved in his prudential judgment about the death penalty, such as judicial error or the misuse by dictatorial regimes. But the main reason he stresses its inadmissibility is because of the need to manifest a genuine reverence for the dignity of every human life. “Not even the murderer loses his dignity,” he says, and that point is made when we make the decision not to take the life of someone whom we must regard as a brother or a sister.
In the final Chapter, Pope Francis focuses on the special role of religious leaders and religions in building social friendship and universal fraternity.
Because of our faith in God the Creator, we look at our fellow creatures differently. We look at human dignity differently.
Although some secularists try to prevent religious leaders and believers from engaging in the public square, love of neighbor must draw believers to cross the road into that square. We can’t love our neighbor otherwise.
Pope Francis emphasizes that religious believers can teach everyone how to dialogue. If we can still love each other even if we disagree about some of the most important and deepest truths — who God is, who man is, how we please him, etc. — we set an example for those in political, social, educational and other spheres.
Pope Francis says that when we worship God, we grow in our awareness of the sacredness of every human life. When we love our neighbor, we transcend xenophobia, terrorist or the denial of the right to religious freedom.
“As religious leaders,” he said, “we are called to be true people of dialogue, authentic mediators and artisans of peace.” That’s a call to each of us.
I look forward to the questions you have. There are also various questions that have been written about in the press that we might get into.
But before we do, I’d like to finish this talk by praying together with you the Trinitarian Prayer Pope Francis gave us at the end of Fratelli Tutti:
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified in the sufferings
of the abandoned and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit,
show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity that God so loves.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
To read Pope Francis' Fratelli Tutti, please click here.
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