fratelli tutti-pope photo
October 6, 2020
“Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans
or indifferent bystanders.”

Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti
Reading Fratelli Tutti

The much anticipated pastoral letter Fratelli Tutti has landed! From the very first line, Pope Francis sets the tone, calling us to go deep and fully embrace “a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel” in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, the “saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy” who inspired this encyclical, as he did Laudato Si.

As religious, we recognize echoes of the Holy Father’s call to us in Wake Up the World, when he challenged us to transform our secular world by being special witnesses of doing, acting, and living. This encyclical builds upon that foundation.

In setting the stage in Fratelli Tutti, he writes that “the dream of working together for justice and peace seems an outdated utopia.” Our global world, rather than bringing a “sense of belonging to a single human family,” has brought “globalized indifference.” (30) This indifference includes the unborn, disabled, and elderly. Though connected globally, we do not see our brothers, our neighbors.

With this in mind, he calls us to reflect in a new way upon the Good Samaritan. Who are we – who am I – in this parable?

“Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. And if we extend our gaze to the history of our own lives and that of the entire world, all of us are, or have been, like each of the characters in the parable. All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passers-by, and something of the Good Samaritan.” (69)

The themes of fraternity and social friendship invite the faithful—and all people of good will—to seek transformational encounters at the local and universal level. The emphasis on love, openness, and hope situate the encyclical as a pastoral missive as well as a doctrinal statement.
The date and location of the release has prompted coverage from the Franciscan theological tradition. Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM, describes Fratelli Tutti here through this particular lens and remarks, with regard to how St. Francis of Assisi would use fraternitas to indicate relationship:

"To talk about fraternity as a disposition or value is to talk about how you view and relate to other people, including strangers and those who may be very different from you. It is about recognizing intrinsic familial ties with all people and creatures."

If the timeless interconnectedness of everyone is a grounding framework, the context for the encyclical is decidedly current. Pope Francis gives considerable attention to the present moment, the “dark clouds” and the “shattered dreams” of a pandemic, of war, and economic inequality. Pope Francis invites the reader to revisit concerns he has raised for years, concerns about the throwaway culture, our collective failure to look to the margins, and what he describes as “globalization and progress without a shared road map.” He strongly condemns the death penalty and addresses the threat of weapons systems that are changing the conversation around “just war” theories.

In a short video here, America magazine’s Colleen Dulle briefly enumerates five takeaways from the new document that demonstrate how Pope Francis lays out a vision for a society rooted in love for neighbor. With a thread about migration and border crossing, those who care and advocate for migrants have also noted that the invitation is expanding the definition of neighbor. Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, explains that the document issues a call for us, “to rediscover the value of human fraternity, to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, responsible for one another.”

Claire Giangravé, for the Religion News Service, highlights the latter part of the encyclical, which echoes the message shared in an ecumenical document signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb in February 2019. The emphasis here is on the shared understanding of human dignity. Pope Francis asserts:

“The root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights that no one may violate – no individual, group, class, nation or state. Not even the majority of the social body may violate these rights, by going against the minority.” (273)

As CMSM leaders, member institutes, and collaborators ruminate on the ways in which Fratelli Tutti encourages all of us to rethink our political and social divisions, our economic orientations, and how we live the Gospel, we are happy to share written reflections, webinars, and practice recommendations in the JP Alerts and on other platforms.

Please contact Bethany Welch at to share what you are learning from or have reflected on yourself. 
Additional news coverage and links

The encyclical in paperback is available for purchase from USCCB Publishing here.
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