Yesterday in Assisi, Pope Francis signed his third encyclical, titled “Fratelli Tutti,” (We are all brothers and sisters).
Here are 10 ideas from the encyclical about caring for our common home and the importance of rethinking the way we connect with each other.
Because, as Pope Francis reminds us in No. 34, if everything is connected, it’s difficult to think about this world disaster as having no relationship with our own reality, pretending to be absolute masters of our own life and of everything that exists.
The more than 44,000 words written by Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti make it the longest encyclical of the pontiff (twice as long as Lumen Fidei and a little longer than Laudato Si’). It represents a new call for a profound conversion and a radical change in the way we live.
1. Fraternity with Creation and Humanity
FT#2 This saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy, who inspired me to write the Encyclical Laudato Si’, prompts me once more to devote this new Encyclical to fraternity and social friendship. Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew that he was even closer to those of his own flesh. Wherever he went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.
2. A Church that goes forth, in dialogue with the world
FT #5 Issues of human fraternity and social friendship have always been a concern of mine. […] In the preparation of Laudato Si’, I had a source of inspiration in my brother Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch, who has spoken forcefully of our need to care for creation. In this case, I have felt particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, with whom I met in Abu Dhabi, where we declared that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters”.
3. Taking care of the planet in order to take care of ourselves
FT #17 To care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves. Yet we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home. Such care does not interest those economic powers that demand quick profits. Often the voices raised in defence of the environment are silenced or ridiculed, using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests. In this shallow, short-sighted culture that we have created, bereft of a shared vision, “it is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims”. (LS 57)
4. The “every man for himself”
FT#36 Unless we recover the shared passion to create a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources, the global illusion that misled us will collapse and leave many in the grip of anguish and emptiness. Nor should we naively refuse to recognize that “obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction”. The notion of “every man for himself” will rapidly degenerate into a free-for-all that would prove worse than any pandemic.
5. Listen to each other and to nature
FT #48 The ability to sit down and listen to others, typical of interpersonal encounters, is paradigmatic of the welcoming attitude shown by those who transcend narcissism and accept others, caring for them and welcoming them into their lives. Yet “today’s world is largely a deaf world… At times, the frantic pace of the modern world prevents us from listening attentively to what another person is saying. Halfway through, we interrupt him and want to contradict what he has not even finished saying. We must not lose our ability to listen”. Saint Francis “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. My desire is that the seed that Saint Francis planted may grow in the hearts of many”
6. The moral high ground of caring for water by thinking of others
FT #117. When we speak of the need to care for our common home, our planet, we appeal to that spark of universal consciousness and mutual concern that may still be present in people’s hearts. Those who enjoy a surplus of water yet choose to conserve it for the sake of the greater human family have attained a moral stature that allows them to look beyond themselves and the group to which they belong. How marvellously human! The same attitude is demanded if we are to recognize the rights of all people, even those born beyond our own borders.
7. Private property is not above the common use of created goods
FT #120. Once more, I would like to echo a statement of Saint John Paul II whose forcefulness has perhaps been insufficiently recognized: “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone”. For my part, I would observe that “the Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property”. The principle of the common use of created goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order”; it is a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others
8. The business or the market is not above human beings or the environment
FT #122. Development must not aim at the amassing of wealth by a few, but must ensure “human rights – personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples”. The right of some to free enterprise or market freedom cannot supersede the rights of peoples and the dignity of the poor, or, for that matter, respect for the natural environment, for “if we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all”
9. Either we solve this crisis together or we will not be able to solve it
FT #126. We are really speaking about a new network of international relations, since there is no way to resolve the serious problems of our world if we continue to think only in terms of mutual assistance between individuals or small groups. Nor should we forget that “inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations”. (LS 51)
10. Politicians and intergenerational morality
FT #178. In the face of many petty forms of politics focused on immediate interests, I would repeat that “true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building”, much less in forging a common project for the human family, now and in the future. Thinking of those who will come after us does not serve electoral purposes, yet it is what authentic justice demands. As the Bishops of Portugal have taught, the earth “is lent to each generation, to be handed on to the generation that follows”.