10/05/2020, 13.06
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'Fratelli tutti', a summary of Pope Francis' seven-year pontificate

by Bernardo Cervellera

The pontiff's attempt is to push everyone towards universal fraternity. The pivot is the image of the Good Samaritan, which affects many Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. The "dream" and the proposals on the UN, foreign debt, the universal destination of private property, the end of the arms trade.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - It is impossible to summarize the long, articulate, analytical encyclical "Fratelli tutti (Brothers all-ed)" that Pope Francis signed in Assisi and was made public on the Saint’s Feast Day. The eight chapters comprising the text - divided into 287 paragraphs -  is like a fresco depicting the abysses into which humanity has plunged: divisions, hunger, abuse, trafficking, humiliations, racism, migrations, injustices, marginalization, terrorism, ...

Perhaps we can even speak of a mosaic with tiny tiles representing the dark sides and possible bright sides of contemporary humanity like a "polyhedron" (an image that Pope Francis really likes). From a certain point of view, the encyclical is like a sort of summary of seven years of pontificate and follows many themes that the Argentine Pope has addressed in recent years.

The pontiff's attempt is to push everyone to a universal fraternity, which overcomes hatred, domination, but also the vacuity of so many humanitarian slogans. He says that "although I have written it from the Christian convictions that inspire and sustain me, I have sought to make this reflection an invitation to dialogue among all people of good will" (n. 6).

The pivot around which this call to fraternity and responsibility revolves is the parable of the Good Samaritan, analysed in the second chapter. In it a man takes care of a sick man of a different religion, wastes time with him, pays in person, includes others to help him (the hotelier). The Pope sees this as the model to be inspired by, whatever religion or political position one belongs to.

I have to say from personal experience that the parable of the Good Samaritan affects many Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu people. Some of my Muslim friends in Beirut felt compelled to help Christians whose houses collapsed with the port explosion. Buddhist groups in Japan work to relieve the loneliness of the elderly; Hindu personalities work every day in Calcutta, alongside the nuns of Mother Teresa (whom Pope Francis called "the good Samaritan of our day").

What the pontiff asks is not a sentimental and generous impulse, but a true conversion to "truth" (a word that goes hand in hand with "charity", n. 184). This request is made not so much - or not only - to members of religions who, having a common divine origin, are easier to fraternity, but to the world of money and finance, which lives off the dictatorship of an unethical market (n.109); politics, which drowns in "declarationist nominalism" (n. 187); to the "strong countries" that bleed the cultures of poor countries (n. 51). In the text there is the condemnation of “populism”, so fashionable today (nn. 155-ff); but also the condemnation of “relativism”, so loved by the “politically correct” (nos. 206-ff).

Francis urgently expresses this request because "the piecemeal third world war" of which he has often spoken, is spreading ceaselessly and enveloping more countries: "In our world - he says - now there are not only 'pieces' of war in one country or another, but we are experiencing a 'piecemeal world war’, because the fates of countries are strongly connected to each other in the world scenario ”(n. 259).

Another element that pushes us to the urgency is that ideologies - and those who manage them - have abandoned "all modesty", unleashing oppression, invasion, kidnapping, human rights violations in an unprecedented fashion: " Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest of terms, even by some political figures”(n. 45).

Pope Francis' "dream" leads to the suggestion that human rights are truly universal (206-ff), and that every man can live in a world without borders (n. 124). There is also a request for a reform of the UN, in which even the poorest nations count on an equal footing with the others (No. 173); a forgiveness of the foreign debt of the poorest countries (No. 126); a strengthening of the universal destination of private property (No. 123); the end of the arms trade, especially in nuclear weapons (No. 262). All this is based on the commitment of the international community, but is prepared and amplified by personal and group commitment to a culture of dialogue and peace, which is crafted above all by peoples (no. 217).

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