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Initial thoughts on Fratelli Tutti

Fratelli Tutti, the new encyclical from Pope Francis has some very interesting sections into it. Having now finished it, I am going to attempt to condense the massive document down into a short version for easy understanding. I may not have everything right, so this is just my initial thoughts on the encyclical. This new encyclical links particularly nicely to Laudato Si, and if anything they could be read together because this document focuses more on the ‘people’ side of Catholic social teaching.


My first thought was… why is the title so sexist? Fratelli Tutti, translates to ‘All Brothers.’ So I initially thought we weren’t off to a good start, but it does get better along the way. Especially in some places where the Pope is clearly taking a dig as the former-ish US president.


Fratelli Tutti has a very big focus on refugees. But there are some other demographics mentioned early on:


19. The lack of children, which causes an aging population, together with the abandonment of the elderly to a painful loneliness, implicitly states that everything ends with us, that only our individual interests matter. Thus, "the object of waste is not only food or superfluous goods, but often human beings themselves". [14]We have seen what happened to the elderly in some places around the world due to the coronavirus. They didn't have to die like that. But in reality something similar had already happened because of the heat waves and other circumstances: cruelly discarded. We do not realize that isolating the elderly and abandoning them in the care of others without adequate and caring accompaniment of the family, mutilates and impoverishes the family itself. Furthermore, it ends up depriving young people of the necessary contact with their roots and with a wisdom that youth alone cannot reach.


Here I really like how the document refers back to the throwaway culture in relation to the aging population. Many of those who have seen me talk, know that I always talk about my time with my nan. I feel very passionate about making our grandparents know love.


Pope Francis also calls out the economic paradigm that we are in.


21 . There are economic rules that have proved effective for growth, but not so effective for integral human development. [16] Wealth has increased, but without equity, and so what happens is that "new poverties are born". [17] When we say that the modern world has reduced poverty, we do so by measuring it with criteria of other epochs not comparable with the current reality. In fact, in other times, for example, not having access to electricity was not considered a sign of poverty and was not a cause of serious discomfort. Poverty is always analyzed and understood in the context of the real possibilities of a concrete historical moment.

And later on links poverty to theft.


119 . In the first centuries of the Christian faith, various scholars developed a universal sense in their reflection on the common destination of created goods. [91] This led us to think that if someone does not have what it takes to live with dignity, it is because another is appropriating it. St. John Chrysostom sums it up by saying that “not to give to the poor part of one's possessions is to steal from the poor, it is to deprive them of their own life; and what we possess is not ours, but theirs ”. [92] As well as these words of St. Gregory the Great: "When we distribute anything to the poor, we do not give our stuff but we give them back what belongs to them". [93]

I really like this quote from Gregory the Great that has been called back to here. This is incredible true when it comes to food production. So much aide is provided even to our own farmers to help them out, when really, we are just giving back what they deserve and what should be given to them.


Pope Francis has also in the passed been, probably incorrectly, reported to be in support of communism. I think this quote once and for all confirms his position.


120 . Again I make my own and I propose to everyone some words of Saint John Paul II , whose strength has perhaps not been understood: "God gave the earth to the whole human race, so that it sustains all its members, without excluding or privileging anyone. ". [94] In this line I recall that "the Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or untouchable, and has highlighted the social function of any form of private property". [95] The principle of the common use of goods created for all is the "first principle of the whole ethical-social order", [96] it is a natural, original and priority right. [97]All other rights over goods necessary for the integral realization of persons, including that of private property and any other, "must therefore not hinder, but, on the contrary, facilitate their realization", as Saint Paul VI affirmed. [98] The right to private property can only be considered as a secondary natural right derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods, and this has very concrete consequences, which must be reflected in the functioning of society. However, it frequently happens that secondary rights are placed above priority and original ones, depriving them of practical relevance.


A few years ago now, I read a fascinating book about the lift of St John Paul II. He was entirely for Capitalism because he had seen the detrimental effects of communism during his life in Poland. It appears that there is a call-back to his teachings as well.


As I said, the focus in the document appears to be on refugees and their treatment. Here Pope Francs is incredibly clear about how that has to happen:


129 . When the next is a migrant, complex challenges are added. [109]Of course, the ideal would be to avoid unnecessary migrations and for this purpose the path is to create in the countries of origin the concrete possibility of living and growing with dignity, so that the conditions for one's own integral development can be found there. But, as long as there is no serious progress in this direction, it is our duty to respect the right of every human being to find a place where they can not only satisfy their basic needs and those of their family, but also fulfill themselves fully as a person. Our efforts towards arriving migrants can be summarized in four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate. Indeed, "it is not a question of lowering welfare programs from above, but of making a journey together through these four actions, to build cities and countries that,[110]


130. This implies some indispensable responses, especially towards those fleeing serious humanitarian crises. For example: increase and simplify the granting of visas; adopt private and community advocacy programs; open humanitarian corridors for the most vulnerable refugees; offer adequate and decent accommodation; guarantee personal safety and access to essential services; ensure adequate consular assistance, the right to always have personal identity documents with them, impartial access to justice, the possibility of opening bank accounts and the guarantee of what is necessary for vital subsistence; give them freedom of movement and the opportunity to work; protect minors and ensure they have regular access to education; provide for temporary custody or reception programs; guarantee religious freedom; promote their social integration; promote family reunification and prepare local communities for integration processes.[111]


Giving very explicit and clear instructions on this matter, is useful for determining the mission of God and the mission of the Church. Pope Francis uses the Good Samaritan as an example text throughout the whole encyclical which Pope Francis is referring to when he says ‘the next’ in 129.

Imam Ahmed is quoted several times in this encyclical. One of the best quotes I think that comes from it is this:


136. Widening our gaze, with the Great Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb we recalled that "the relationship between West and East is an indisputable mutual necessity, which cannot be replaced or even neglected, so that both can enrich each other with the civilization of the other, through the exchange and dialogue of cultures. The West could find in the civilization of the East remedies for some of its spiritual and religious illnesses caused by the domination of materialism. And the East could find many elements in the civilization of the West that can help it save itself from weakness, division, conflict and scientific, technical and cultural decline. It is important to pay attention to the religious, cultural and historical differences which are an essential component in the formation of the personality, of oriental culture and civilization; and it is important to consolidate general and common human rights, to help guarantee a dignified life for all men in the East and in the West, avoiding the use of the policy of the double measure ».[119]


What a fantastic quote!! It is so incredibly true I feel!!

This document does for Catholic Social teaching, what Laudato Si does for Catholic Ecological teaching. I thoroughly look forward to presenting some of the content to my students in the coming years through RE.

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