Pope Francis has just written his third encyclical of his papacy, called “Fratelli Tutti”, brothers and sisters all. Once again St. Francis of Assisi inspired him to write this teaching as he did for the great work “Laudato Si”. Pope Francis writes: “Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.” 8
How important it is for the world to hear this dream, in a world of tremendous polarization and within our own Catholic Church that does not witness to the dream but openly disparages fellow Christians and fellow shepherds, who unable to see the value of dialogue, cling to what is “non-negotiable” and are cornered with no option but judgement of the other.
Jesus when asked “Who is my neighbour?”, chose the example of the Samaritan; the outsider, the foreigner, the rejected. Pope Francis second chapter “A Stranger on the Road”, focuses on the Samaritan story. He speaks of the basis for fraternity. In paragraph 58, he states the basis of certain common rights that flow from the truth that we are fashioned by the one and same Creator. Then he cites the beautiful image of St. Irenaeus: “One who seeks the truth should not concentrate on the differences between one note and another, thinking as if each was created separately and apart from the others; instead, he should realize that one and the same person composed the entire melody”.58
An article of last week’s “What’s New”, makes clear the need to make a leap of faith again and again, that we are all brothers and sisters. Tadié raises our awareness of the increased series of attacks on Christians by Islamic terrorists on French soil. The question posed in Fratelli Tutti by Pope Francis is, “can we hold the dignity of every person, even the murderer”? How can we transform our societies to become such a welcoming and wholesome environment that the foreigner desires to integrate rather than battle. But it is the stories of the violence of the few that place fear and reluctance to welcome the refugee or immigrant.
The Pope offers some challenges to those who are privileged;
• “Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” 129
• “The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity. Differences of color, religion, talent, place of birth or residence, and so many others, cannot be used to justify the privileges of some over the rights of all. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.” 118
• “No one, then, can remain excluded because of his or her place of birth, much less because of privileges enjoyed by others who were born in lands of greater opportunity. The limits and borders of individual states cannot stand in the way of this. As it is unacceptable that some have fewer rights by virtue of being women, it is likewise unacceptable that the mere place of one’s birth or residence should result in his or her possessing fewer opportunities for a developed and dignified life.” 121
I encourage you to read the encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”. The whole of the encyclical expounds on the second commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself. It is truly a prophetic word to a world that is fractured and polarized.
By Ken Forster, OMI