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Archbishop Eamon Martin encourages all to read Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ letter to all of humanity on fraternity and social friendship  

Pope Francis’ third encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti (All brothers and sisters), a call to solidarity for all of humanity to live in fraternity and social friendship, was published after the Holy Father prayed the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square, Rome, today, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.  Yesterday Pope Francis signed the letter in Assisi, Italy, at the tomb of Saint Francis.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said, “I warmly welcome this timely and provocative message from Pope Francis which reminds us so powerfully of the message of love that is at the heart of the Gospel – a love which reaches out to all of our ‘brothers and sisters’ who share our common humanity.

“I am conscious that Pope Francis wrote this encyclical during a global pandemic, a time which is reminding us not only of our connectedness around the world but also of our fragility, our shared vulnerability and common need for compassion and love and for the hope that faith in God can bring. 

“Pope Francis has a real gift for opening up and reflecting on the Word of God – he loves to select a passage from Scripture and ‘meditate out loud’ on what God’s Word is saying to us.  This time he chooses the challenging Parable of the Good Samaritan and he slowly ‘breaks open’ the wisdom and teaching of that Parable for today. Yes, we might agree, we are all ‘brothers and sisters’; we are all neighbours sharing this planet.  But, ‘Who is my neighbour?  Who is my brother?  Who is my sister?’

“Pope Francis reminds us of how his namesake, Saint Francis, answered this question.  He ‘heard the voice of God, he heard the voice of the poor, he heard the voice of the infirm and he heard the voice of nature.  He made of them a way of life.’ 

“In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis therefore makes a special appeal in the name of justice and mercy for the orphan, the poor, the stranger, the migrant, the refugee and all those on the ‘margins’, the ‘peripheries’ of life and society.  He envisages an ‘open world’ motivated by what he calls ‘social friendship’ and sincere hospitality towards others.  I find it particularly challenging when he mentions that ‘Some peripheries are close to us, in the city centres or in our families.’  This of course reminds us here in Ireland to consider who might be left out, who do we tend to shuffle over into the margins of society and perhaps try to forget? 

“I sometimes wonder about the impact on us of seeing a homeless person lying on our streets, or watching live pictures on the media of thousands of refugees huddled in camps, or starving children swatting away flies from their faces – how easily we can ‘shift our gaze’, feel sorry for them but never really question our own values, lifestyle, attitudes?  This dilemma is at the heart of Fratelli Tutti.  These days we speak about social distancing during the pandemic.  Perhaps the real social distancing is the way that the great majority of people in the world can get on with their lives seemingly oblivious or ‘anaesthetised’ to the tremendous suffering, inequality and neglect of the poor and the most vulnerable among us.  Solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, Pope Francis says, means looking into their faces, touching their flesh, sensing their closeness and trying to help them.  It never tolerates any assault on human life or the human dignity of any person. 

“As expected, therefore, Fratelli Tutti has a challenging message for political leaders and Church leaders about dialogue, mutual understanding and combined effort towards practical actions to make a difference in the world.  It encourages us to ‘pay attention to the global’ while also ‘looking to the local’, avoiding both global uniformity and local narrowness or narcissism. 

“We are called to have a ‘gaze transformed by charity’ which touches our hearts like the Good Samaritan and shows a preferential love to those in greatest need.  That gaze ‘is at the heart of the authentic spirit of politics’.  It ‘undergirds everything we do on their behalf.’ 

“Pope Francis’ questions to politicians might also be asked of all of us who are entrusted with leadership positions.  He says: ‘The real, and potentially painful, questions will be, ‘How much love did I put into my work?  What did I do for the progress of our people?  What mark did I leave on the life of society?  What real bonds did I create?  What positive forces did I unleash?  How much social peace did I sow?  What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?’

Fratelli Tutti is a must read for everybody.  Pope Francis is addressing his new letter not only to Catholics but to all people of goodwill.  In terms of its theme it is a natural companion to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si, on care for our common home, which highlights our collective responsibility to manage natural sources and to sustain our God-given environment.  But today, at this time of global pandemic, Pope Francis’ calls us to love each other as God loves us by living the parable of the Good Samaritan every minute of every day.  Our civilisation is not omnipotent, so we need to respect the innate dignity of each other – from family to stranger – with love and practical support, so that the human race can flourish.

“I would also like to compliment the supplementary resources which accompany Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, including a quick key (see below), an overview, slides, questions and answers, and a video.  These will go a long way to effectively disseminate the letter’s powerful message and help to inform a wide variety of audiences, including educational.  This content will be made available soon on a web feature on the home page of catholicbishops.ie.”

ENDS

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore and Primate of All Ireland.
  • A quick key to Fratelli tutti

Shadows over the closed world (Ch. 1) are spreading everywhere, leaving injured people by the roadside, cast out and discarded. The shadows plunge humanity into confusion, loneliness, and desolation. When we come upon an injured stranger on the road (Ch. 2), we can assume one of two attitudes: we can pass by or we can stop to help. The type of person we are and the type of political, social or religious group we belong to will be defined by whether we include or exclude the injured stranger.

God is universal love, and as long as we are part of that love and share in it, we are called to universal fraternity, which is openness to all. There are no “others,” no “them,” there is only “us”. We want, with God and in God, an open world (Ch. 3), a world without walls, without borders, without people rejected, without strangers. To achieve this world, we must have an open heart (Ch. 4). We need to experience social friendship, seek what is morally good, and practice a social ethic because we know we are part of a universal fraternity. We are called to solidarity, encounter, and gratuitousness.

To create an open world with an open heart, it is necessary to engage in politics, and a better kind of politics (Ch. 5) is essential. Politics for the common and universal good. Politics that is “popular” because it is for and with the people. It is politics with social charity that seeks human dignity. The politics of men and women who practice political love by integrating the economy with the social and cultural fabric into a consistent and life-giving human project.

Knowing how to dialogue is the way to open the world and build social friendship (Ch. 6) which manifests an open heart and provides the basis for a better politics. Dialogue seeks and respects the truth. Dialogue gives rise to the culture of encounter, which becomes a way of life, a passionate desire. Whoever dialogues is generous, recognizing and respecting the other.

But it is not enough just to engage in encounter. We have to face the reality of the injuries of past mis-encounters, and so we have to establish and walk the paths of re-encounter (Ch. 7). We need to heal the wounds, which requires seeking and offering forgiveness. To forgive is not to forget. We need to be daring and start from the truth—the recognition of historical truth—which is the inseparable companion of justice and mercy. All this is indispensable for advancing towards peace. Conflict is inevitable on the road to peace, but violence is inadmissible. That is why war is a recourse that must be rejected, and the death penalty a practice that must be eliminated.

The different religions of the world recognize human beings as God’s creatures. As creatures, we are in a relationship of fraternity. The religions are called to the service of fraternity in the world (Ch. 8). In dialogue and with hearts open to the world, we can establish social friendship and fraternity. In our openness to the Father of all, we recognize our universal condition as brothers and sisters. For Christians, the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is what inspires our actions and commitments. This path of fraternity also has a Mother called Mary.

Faced with those injured by the shadows of a closed world and still lying by the roadside, we are invited by Pope Francis to make our own the world’s desire for fraternity, starting with the recognition that we are “Fratelli tutti”, brothers and sisters all.                                                    

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678

 

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