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Back to 2020-10-04-Opinión-TEO-Fratelli tutti

Ramiro Pellitero Iglesias, Professor of Theology, University of Navarra, Spain School

Fratelli tutti: Friendship and fraternity, dialogue and meeting

Sun, 04 Oct 2020 10:19:00 +0000 Posted in Word

Pope Francis' third encyclical Fratelli tutti, on fraternity and social friendship, is a social encyclical written from "Christian convictions", offered in dialogue to all people of good will. These Christian convictions are contained in reference letter to the Second Vatican Council: "The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the people of our time, especially the poor and those who suffer, are at the same time the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the disciples of Christ"(Gaudium et spes, 1).

Therefore, it starts from a look at the world that "is more than an aseptic description of reality". It is an "attempt to seek a light in the midst of what we are living", a search open to dialogue and with the aim of "proposing lines of action" (n. 56). The method is that proper to ethical and pastoral discernment, which seeks, as the word indicates, to distinguish the path of good in order to channel, overcoming the risks of unilateral polarizations, the work staff in the context of society and cultures.

In dealing with fraternity and social friendship, the Pope declares that he dwells on the universal dimension of fraternity. It is not in vain that one of the key points of the document is the rejection of individualism. "We are all brothers", members of the same human family, which comes from a single Creator, and which sails in the same boat. promote Globalization shows us the need to work together for the common good and care of life, dialogue and peace.

A world marked by individualism

Although there is no lack of recognition of scientific and technological advances and of the efforts of many to do good - as we saw on the occasion of the pandemic - we are faced with "the shadows of a closed world" (chapter 1): manipulations, injustices and selfishness, conflicts, fears and the "culture of walls," xenophobia and contempt for the weak. Dreams are shattered, a common project is missing and the difficulty in responding to personal and social crises is evident. "We are more alone than ever in this overcrowded world that makes individual interests prevail and weakens the communitarian dimension of existence" (n. 12). All this manifests the "accentuation of many forms of individualism without content" (n. 13) and takes place in the face of "an unacceptable international silence" (n. 29). To overcome cynicism, to fill the void of meaning in life and to avoid violence, we need, says the Pope, "to recover the shared passion for a community of belonging and solidarity" (n. 36).

Opening to the world from the heart

How can we respond to this status? How can we achieve a true openness to the world, that is, a communication that makes us better and contributes to the improvement of society?

The Gospel presents the figure of the Good Samaritan (chapter 2: "A stranger on the road"). It is clear to us that "the existence of each one of us is linked to that of others: life is not a passing time, but a time for meeting" (n. 66). We are made for a fullness that can only be attained in love: "It is not possible to live indifferently in the face of pain; we cannot allow anyone to remain 'on the sidelines of life'. This should make us indignant, to the point of bringing us down from our serenity to be disturbed by human suffering" (68).

In our lives there is always an opportunity to begin again to live fraternity. To answer the question "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus "does not invite us to ask ourselves who are those who are close to us, but to become close to us, our neighbors" (n. 80).

This is why there is no excuse for slavery, closed nationalism and mistreatment of those who are different: "It is important that catechesis and preaching include in a more direct and clear way the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, the conviction about the inalienable dignity of each person and the motivations to love and welcome everyone" (n. 86).

Openness is the word core topic. To "think and develop an open world" (degree scroll in chapter 3), we need "a heart open to the whole world" (chapter 4). One guarantee is openness to transcendence, openness to God: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God" (1 Jn 4:16).

Declares Francis: "I was particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, whom I met in Abu Dhabi to recall that God 'has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers among themselves'(Document on human fraternity for world peace and common coexistence, Abu Dhabi, 4-II-2019) (5).

For Christians, "faith fills with unheard-of motivations in recognition of the other, because those who believe can come to recognize that God loves every human being with an infinite love and 'thereby confers on him an infinite dignity' (John Paul II, Message to the Disabled, November 16, 1980)" (n. 85). test of this is that "Christ shed his blood for each and every one, so that no one is excluded from his universal love"(Ibid.).

Openness of cultures to each other

This must be manifested in cultures: "Other cultures are not enemies to be preserved, but are different reflections of the inexhaustible richness of human life" (n. 147), always from and for people: promote "the value of love for one's neighbor, the first indispensable exercise for achieving a healthy universal integration" (151).

At the service of the person and of cultures and their mutual openness, "the best politics" (Chapter 5) is placed, a work of craftsmanship that must be directed to the common good, guided by fraternity and social friendship, driven by love. "How much love did I put into my work, in what did I advance the people, what mark did I leave on the life of society, what real bonds did I build, what positive forces did I unleash, how much social peace did I sow, what did I provoke in the place entrusted to me?" (n. 197).

Truth and dignity

In the background of this universal dimension of human fraternity that the Pope wishes to promote, there is what is truly valuable, because not everything is worth the same: "A culture without universal values is not a true culture" (John Paul II, speech 2 FEBRUARY 1987) (146). Truth is discovered through wisdom, which involves meeting with reality (cf. n. 47). Truth is neither imposed nor violently defended, but is opened in love. Also the truth of human dignity: "the inalienable dignity of every human person beyond origin, color or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love" (n. 39). At the same time, love's relationship with truth protects it from being mere sentimentalism, individualism or humanism closed to transcendence (cf. n. 184),

Dialogue, meeting, search for peace

True dialogue (see chapter 6: "Dialogue and Social Friendship") does not have to do with mere negotiation in search of particular benefits: "The heroes of the future will be those who know how to break this unhealthy logic and decide to respectfully sustain a word loaded with truth, beyond personal convenience. May God grant that these heroes are silently developing in the heart of our society" (n. 202).

Nor does dialogue have anything to do with manipulated consensus or imposed relativism: "In the face of the moral norms that prohibit intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. There is no difference between being the master of the world or the last of the wretched of the earth: before moral demands we are all absolutely equal" (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, 96).

It is necessary to seek a new culture that recovers kindness. Indeed, we must start again from the truth, together with justice and mercy, and the craftsmanship of peace (see chapter 7: "Paths of reunion"). This is why war and the death penalty must be opposed. And religions are called to collaborate in the front line in this project (cf. chapter 8: "Religions at the service of fraternity in the world"). God cannot be silenced either in society or in the human heart:

"When, in the name of an ideology, people want to expel God from society, they end up worshipping idols, and immediately man is lost, his dignity is trampled underfoot, his rights violated" (n. 274). Christians believe that in him is found the authentic source of human dignity and universal brotherhood.