Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Fratelli tutti, or On Fraternity and Social Friendship addresses some of the most challenging issues of our time by framing them in light of the story of the Good Samaritan . He begins by describing the “dark clouds over the closed world” including war and renewal of ancient conflicts, wastefulness of resources and of human people, terrorism, racial and religious persecution, and the pandemic. So many people are left, like the stranger on the road to Jericho in the parable, to suffer abandoned, frightened, and alone. Pope Francis recognizes the inner conflict that faces each of us as we consider the nature and plight of our “neighbor:”
He writes, “The parable is clear and straightforward, yet it also evokes the interior struggle that each of us experiences as we gradually come to know ourselves through our relationships with our brothers and sisters. Sooner or later, we will all encounter a person who is suffering. Today there are more and more of them. The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social, and religious project. Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders.” (FT, 69)
In the ensuing chapters of the encyclical, the pontiff examines ways to remedy the situation. He first calls each of us to be people of hope with the opportunity to daily decide to be co-responsible in acknowledging the plight of “the other” and “creating and putting into place new processes and changes” which can be achieved when we act in fraternity, in community, with one another as travelers on the road. (FT, 77)
There are several practical steps we can take to break open Fratelli tutti today:
- Begin with self-examination: Who are the “others” in my own life – those who are different or estranged in my neighborhood, family, and community? What will it take to bridge the gaps? How can I be a person of healing and welcome?
- Encourage parishioners to read Fratelli tutti or a summary of the encyclical provided by the Vatican, or the concise overview and summary provided by the USCCB . Provide access to some of the resources listed in the point below.
Consider how Fratelli tutti impacts your parish. Pope Francis writes, “A ‘sanctuary’ open to all, the Parish, called to reach out to everyone, without exception, should remember that the poor and excluded must always have a privileged place in the heart of the Church” (FT, 32). Study guides for Fratelli tutti are available to initiate discussion, including:
- A downloadable 6-page study guide by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns , available in both English and Spanish
- The Pastoral Center offers a variety of resources to assist study, including downloadable homily ideas and handouts, and a group reading guide “On Fraternity and Social Friendship” pamphlet by Bill Huebsch
- Create small groups to initiate dialogue to openly address the disparities that challenge your parish community and society: racism, social inequities, poverty, and assault on human dignity. True dialogue is what allows us to respect the point of view of others, their legitimate interests and, above all, the truth of human dignity. “Each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and no one is expendable” (FT, 215).
- As we consider Families of Parishes , provide the opportunity to study Fratelli tutti and its impact on your particular Family. Be intentional about including people from diverse groups and discuss how this will affect your evangelization and missionary efforts. “Authentic and mature love and true friendship can only take root in hearts open to growth through relationships with others” (FT, 89).
Fratelli tutti is a profound and challenging encyclical which can change minds and hearts. “Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all” (FT, 94).