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An Overview of the Enclyclical FRATELLI TUTTI

Joseph Santiago CMF - Wed, Nov 11th 2020


Fraternity and social friendship.

Themes are put in the document on Human fraternity for world peace and living together, which the Pope signed jointly with the Grand Imam Ahmad Al Tayyeb in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi.


Fraternity and social friendship is the expression of Saint Francis Assisi (Admonitions, 6, 1). The saint used the expression to propose a way of life marked by the flavour of the Gospel. Saint Francis invites all men and women to a love that transcends barriers geography and distance.


Besides Francis of Assisi, he also states that he has been inspired by numerous non-Catholics, including Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, and Mahatma Gandhi. The notion of "neighbour" elaborated in the document is partly inspired by the interpretation of Paul Ricoeur, whom the pope quotes twice in the encyclical; the pope also quotes one of Ricoeur's thought leaders,Christian existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel. 


The Encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” aims at promoting a universal aspiration toward fraternity and social friendship.

This papal document focuses on human solidarity and charity, following the model of Good Samaritan, towards one’s own neighbour, who is in global health emergency.

The encyclical calls for more human fraternity and solidarity, and is a plea to reject wars.

In the encyclical, the pope states that the COVID 19 Pandemic has proven the failure of the world to work together during the crisis

The encyclical criticises racism saying "Racism is a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting".

Pope Francis repeats that death penalty is  "inadmissible" and that "there can be no stepping back from this position."

The document focuses on contemporary social and economic problems, and proposes an ideal world of fraternity in which all countries can be part of a "larger human family”.

The encyclical is roughly 43,000 words long, is divided in 8 chapters and 287 paragraphs, and contains 288 footnotes which shows the enormity of the work.

Most of the encyclical contains what the Pope has already said, and can be considered as a systematic, comprehensive rearrangement of the work Francis has produced during his seven-year papacy. "By incorporating past sayings from homilies, speeches and statements into an encyclical, one of the highest levels of teaching in the church, he raises their authority


Chapter 1 Dark clouds over a closed world

Chapter 2 A stranger on the road

Chapter 3 Envisaging and engendering an open world

Chapter 4 A heart open to the whole world

Chapter 5 A better kind of politics

Chapter 6 Dialogue and friendship in society

Chapter 7 Paths of renewed encounter

Chapter 8 Religions at the service of fraternity in our world

An appeal


The encyclical is written in Spanish, although the title is in Italian.



Friendship and unity in a fragmented world

The document begins by explaining that our call to love others as brothers and sisters, even when they are far from us is a call to 'open fraternity', a love without borders. The encyclical offers eight chapters, each exploring themes of friendship and unity in a time of growing fragmentation, with a focus on the human family in a post-COVID-19 world. Below is a summary of each chapter.

CHAPTER 1: The first chapter describes the dark clouds over a closed world; these clouds extend to all parts of the world, hindering the development of universal fraternity. What are these clouds? They are the circumstances that leave many people wounded by the roadside, discarded and rejected. The clouds plunge humanity into confusion, isolation, and desolation. Under the dark shadows of this ever more tightly closed world, precious words like democracy, freedom, justice, and unity are manipulated and emptied of meaning. We see people sowing despair and discouragement, hyperbole, extremism, and polarisation—these are the strategies for dominating and gaining control over people. The system denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Politics has been turned into marketing. Persons considered no longer productive or useful are disregarded and discounted by this throwaway culture that prevails beneath the dark clouds of our closed world.

The Pope reminds us that love, justice, and solidarity are not achieved once and for all but that they have to be built and worked by each person day by day.

CHAPTER 2: When we come uponan injured stranger on the road (here Pope Francis draws us to the parable of the Good Samaritan), we can assume one of two attitudes: we can pass by or we can stop to help. The type of person we are and the type of political, social or religious group we belong to will be defined by whether we include or exclude the injured stranger.  

Pope Francis calls us to rediscover our vocation as citizens of our own nations and of the entire world. He summons us to be builders of a new social bond and to be aware that the existence of each and every individual is deeply tied to that of others: life is not simply time that passes; life is a time for interactions 

CHAPTER 3:  God is universal love, and as long as we are part of that love and share in it, we are called to universal fraternity, which is openness to all. There are no "others,” no  "them," there is only "us”. We want, with God and in God, an open world, a world without walls, without borders, without people rejected, without strangers.

CHAPTER 4: To achieve this world, we must have an open heart. We need to experience social friendship, seek what is morally good, and practice a social ethic because we know we are part of a universal fraternity. We are called to solidarity, encounter, and gratuitousness.    

Social Relationship.jpgCHAPTER 5: To create an open world with an open heart, it is necessary to engage in politics, and a better kind of politics is essential. Politics for the common and universal good. Politics that is “popular” because it is for and with the people. It is politics with   social charity that seeks human dignity. The politics of men and women who practice political love by integrating the economy with the social and cultural fabric into a consistent and life-giving human project.   

CHAPTER 6: Knowing how to dialogue is the way to open the world and build social friendship manifests an open heart and provides the basis for a better politics. Dialogue seeks and respects the truth. Dialogue gives rise to the culture of encounter, which becomes a way of life, a passionate desire. Whoever dialogues is   generous, recognizing and respecting the other.   

CHAPTER 7: But it is not enough just to engage in an encounter. We have to face the reality of the injuries past mis-encounters, and so we have to establish and walk the paths of  re-encounter. We need to heal the wounds, which require seeking and    offering forgiveness. To forgive is not to forget. We need to be daring and start from the truth—the recognition of historical truth—which is the inseparable companion of   justice and mercy. All this is indispensable for advancing towards peace. Conflict is   inevitable on the road to peace, but violence is inadmissible. That is why war is a recourse that must be rejected, and the death penalty a practice that must be   eliminated.   

CHAPTER 8: The different religions of the world recognize human beings as God's creatures. As creatures, we are in a relationship of fraternity. The religions are called to the service of fraternity in the world. In dialogue and with hearts open to the   world, we can establish social friendship and fraternity. In our openness to the Father of all, we recognize our universal condition as brothers and sisters. For Christians, the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and   that is what inspires our actions and commitments. This path of fraternity also has a Mother called Mary.   


Faced with those injured by the shadows of a closed world and still lying by the roadside, we are invited by Pope Francis to make our own the world's desi fraternity, starting with the recognition that we are “Fratelli tutti ”, brothers and sisters all. 


The encyclical ends with two prayers: One to the Creator,addressing God as father and an ecumenical Chrsitian prayer,addressing God as the Holy Trinity.


Joseph Santiago CMF, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Arul Anandar College, Karumathur, Madurai, Tamilnadu, India

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