Now in Other News...

While most of the media has been concentrating on the Presidential election, Supreme Court appointment, and the coronavirus, Pope Francis recently published his newest social encyclical, "Fratelli tutti." The English translation of which is "All brothers and sisters." The 86-page document was officially signed by Pope Francis in Assisi two weeks ago on Sunday, October 4, 2020. Francis was visiting Assisi to celebrate the feast of St. Francis. It was Pope Francis' first trip outside the Vatican since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.

I haven't been able to read the encyclical, but from what I have read in the press, it is very challenging and responsive to many of the social ills confronting our modern-day world. One commentator said she had to write "ouch" in the margin of her copy of the letter numerous times. Pope Francis does challenge many of the notions taken for granted by many, especially in First World Nations.

In Fratelli tutti, Francis used as a basis for his letter a reflection on the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. He offers some tangible ways to build a more just and fraternal world. Francis promotes a movement towards fraternal and social friendship. The pope began writing the encyclical before the pandemic's onset, which influenced his thinking and the letter's development. He said that the pandemic clearly illustrates that no one can face life in isolation, and everyone must work together to construct a more fraternal world.

Francis begins the encyclical by lamenting "cultural walls" built-in societies throughout the world. He says they have deformed the concepts of democracy, freedom, and justice, lead to selfishness and indifference, and a waste culture that has led to a throwaway society.

Using the Good Samaritan image of the traveler who overcame the barriers of prejudices, personal interests, and historical and cultural obstacles to assist the man beaten by robbers, Francis encourages readers to recognize the face of Christ in every person excluded from the mainstream of society. Francis envisions an open world where people will go outside themselves to overcome selfishness and strengthen solidarity and fraternity with others.

Francis addresses the issue of migration too. The United Nations estimates that over 200 million people migrate each year. Francis says that unnecessary migration needs to be avoided by creating concrete opportunities for people to live with dignity in their countries of origin. When migration is necessary, especially for those trying to escape grave humanitarian crises, Francis calls for global collaboration to ease their suffering.

Francis also calls for a better kind of politics centered on human dignity and not merely the financial marketplace. He suggests reorganizing the United Nations to become a family of nations working for the common good, eradicating poverty, and protecting human rights. The UN must promote the force of law rather than the law of force.

Francis encourages a renewed encounter for peace, not only between nations but within nations, societies, and families. He denounces war and seriously questions if there can be a "just war" under today's circumstances. Francis calls for an end to the death penalty worldwide. He notes that not even a murderer loses their personal dignity.

In conclusion, Francis focuses on religion at the service of fraternity in our world. He attributes religious violence of all kinds to misinterpretation of religious texts and policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, and oppression that use religion as a point of conflict.

It is clear that "Fratelli tutti" offers considerable guidance for everyone working together in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic to shape a more just and loving world. I'll be putting the encyclical on my reading list for the next few weeks. I hope you will plan to read and reflect on it too!