Invitation to the prayerful, moral and pastoral reading of Fratelli Tutti


The purpose of these lines is not to make an erudite and systematic exposition of the objectives and contents of Fratelli Tutti (FT) but an invitation to read them in the keys the title of this article indicates, through the memory of texts and facts of the history of the Church and of the Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC).

I am going to make ten statements that are intended to motivate the reader to do what is really important, which is to read the encyclical. That is why I do not quote numbers or texts from it. To know if what I say below is true or not, the reader of this text will have to read FT.

1. There is only one way to truly understand and accept Fratelli tutti; by immersing ourselves in a profound process of evangelical conversion, because if there is one reality that underlies and motivates the encyclical, it is the Gospel, the evangelical life. The Pope invites us to welcome the word of God, there are about 60 biblical references in FT, and to live from it, welcoming it as light and a guide when making a believing reading of the social reality. Let us remember how Fr. Congar invited us to reform the Church from the return to the Principle and Tradition, and the Pope leads us to confront ourselves with the Word of God, with the primeval affirmation of Christianity of the universal fatherhood of God and, as a consequence of it, the universal brotherhood among men.

2. FT invites us to a theological look at man. From the Holy Trinity, it affirms his social, personal and transcendent nature. It situates man in his relational/dialogical dimension. Man is always an "I" referring to the "you" of others and the "You" of God. Hence the importance of the Pope's denunciation of this globalized world from the cult of individualism, of the "bubble" man enclosed in a microcosm of small relationships that forget others, especially the poorest, most excluded and vulnerables.

In his opening speech at Aparecida, Benedict XVI said that "Faith releases us from the isolation of the "I", because it leads us to communion: the encounter with God is, in itself and as such, an encounter with our brothers and sisters, an act of convocation, of unification, of responsibility towards the other and towards others". FT, in line with these words, defends a personalist, communitarian and relational anthropology.

3. Rooted in the best tradition of the SDC, Benignitas et humanitas, Pacem in Terris, Gaudium et spes, Redemptor hominis, FT defends the dignity of man and the human rights from which they derive, launching the challenge to a humane world, to build a fraternal society, based on the common good, the solidarity and the justice. The Pope reminds us once again that the Gospel is the source from which this dignity flows. FT is a renewed invitation to the Church to develop the pastoral care of human dignity and human rights.

4. In 1962, in his first address to the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Lercaro stated that "the mystery of Christ in the Church is always, but especially today, in our day, the mystery of Christ in the poor". In the above-mentioned speech, Benedict XVI affirmed that "the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in that God who has made himself poor for us, in order to enrich us with his poverty". Pope Francis, in full harmony with this story, reminds us once again in FT of the drama of poverty, in its fourfold social, economic, political and cultural dimension. But Francis makes, above all, a theological reading of the inequality and iniquity suffered by the poor: they denounce the sin of a world and a humanity that has forgotten God and, as Fr. de Lubac and Paul VI already said, it is consequently organized against man himself.

But they do not only denounce the sin of the world. The poor are also the touchstone of the Church's evangelical authenticity.

5. The relational/dialogical dimension of man runs through the entire encyclical. Man is a member of a people, the son of a culture, the fruit of a family. But these dimensions are not closed in on themselves, for they must all be oriented to launching man into his vocation, sown by God in his heart, to be a brother to all. The Pope overcomes the false dichotomy between local and universal, placing them in a higher dynamic, which is the very realization of the human being in all his dimensions. For this reason, local and universal should not confront each other, but rather complement each other. The anthropology of FT is integral and integrating. We cannot build a human world, a fraternal society, if we do not count on all men and women and the whole man or woman. Nothing that is human is foreign to God and reminds us of FT.

6. This in FT has an immediate political consequence: overcoming nationalisms, and the underlying, exclusionary ideologies. The Pope speaks of "closed", "exasperated", "resentful" and "aggressive" nationalisms. The globality to which FT aspires is universal brotherhood. This means facing the task of redefining the concept of citizenship. We must overcome the idea of citizenship linked to administrative and/or legal requirements, and develop a new concept of being a citizen based on what unites us all and is above any differential fact: we are all human, we are all humanity. Fraternity, in FT, is much more than a moral category, it is an anthropological and theological category.

This is where the critique of populisms should be situated, since they are, in the majority of cases, nothing more than an ideological version of territorial nationalisms.

7. The Pope, faithful to his teaching, denounces in FT a perverted economy, where money is worth more than the person, where profit is not oriented to the common good. He reminds us how the enterprise and the economic action of politics must be oriented to the creation of dignified work.

Following the tradition of the SDC, Leo XIII, Pius XI, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, it criticizes the excesses of liberalism, idolatrous of the market and money, often subjected to the servitude of the economic interests of the elites, and those of Marxism, which ends up manipulating the poor to put them at its own service and in its own interests.

In the face of both systems, FT reminds us of the value of solidarity and subsidiarity, of the value of the public, but also of the private initiative. Not in vain does it cite the two forms of charity of which St. Thomas Aquinas spoke, elitist love and imperious love.

8. Faithful to his teaching, Francis recalls in FT the very high vocation of politics and politicians. He invites us, following the path of Caritas in Veritate, to a profound purification of politics, so that it may be what it ought to be: a service to the common good, done from a closeness to the people that allows an adequate knowledge of their reality.

Politics, for Francis, must favor the development of a "polyhedral" society, where legitimate plurality and discrepancy are peacefully and constructively channeled, and where everyone's dignity and rights are recognized.

How important is in FT the idea of political charity, social charity! The politician, and political action, and of course the citizens, cannot be unaware of it.

9. All FT, in perfect harmony with Ecclesiam Suam, is a commitment to dialogue, to the culture of the encounter in the common space of humanity and the dignity of all human beings. Therefore, FT is a song to peace and fraternity based on justice and the experience of God who is love.

10. Finishing at the beginning, FT begins with a believing reading of reality. The Pope looks, listens and feels the world, with the eyes, ears and heart of God. This is what the Samaritan does. He moves away from himself so that the center is the other, the wounded, the victim, at whose service he puts everything he is and has: his life, his time, his horse, his money.

The Pope reminds us that if the Church is not Samaritan, it is not the Church of Christ. The Samaritan saw, was moved and moved. This is what makes it possible for us to become neighbors to others. The believing reading of reality always moves us to action. The theological reading of reality that FT makes invites us to evangelical life, a life committed to service and the giving of life.

From here, the Church must renew its structures and its pastoral action.

I conclude these lines with those words that Paul VI pronounced at the close of Vatican II, and which I have constantly recalled in reading FT:

"Perhaps never as in this Synod has the Church felt the need to know the society that surrounds her, to approach it, to understand it, to penetrate it, to serve it and transmit the message of the Gospel and to approach it by following it in its rapid and continuous change (...). The Church has declared herself in a certain sense to be the servant of humanity, precisely at a time when her magisterium and her pastoral government, through the solemn celebrations of the Ecumenical Council, have acquired greater splendor and vigor; indeed, the purpose of practicing service has really taken center stage".

Ignacio Mª Fernández de Torres, Justice and Peace from Madrid.