“Fratelli Tutti” – With an Oblate Eye
Fr. Ajit Victor Costa, OMI
Pope Francis shares his dreams and invites all children of God through this “Social Encyclical” (6) to build a dignified, just and peaceful world through the process of building fraternity and social friendship. The title of the encyclical springs from the “Admonitions” of St. Francis of Assisi, who would dearly address his brothers and sisters, his own flesh, and proposed to them a way of life, marked by the flavour of the Gospel (1). The Saint, instead of “imposing doctrines or waging a war of words simply spread the love of God,” and “he became a father to all and inspired the vision of a fraternal society” (2-4), the Pope writes. Borrowing from the teaching of the Catholic Church, his own Encyclicals, his personal encounters and dialogues, and the Document on Human Fraternity signed by him and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February, 2019, the Pope wrote the letter. COVID-19, the pandemic which “unexpectedly erupted”, also was in the background (7-8).
Chapter I: “Dark Clouds over a Closed World” highlights the dreams of people that are being shattered by the loss of a shared and historical consciousness, lack of plans for everyone, a “throwaway” and egotistic attitude, individualism, racism, conflict and fear, hate, prejudice, the slavery of children, youth, women and men, the plight of migrants, the underprivileged, the poor, those on the periphery, the indigenous people, slavery, unjust war, extremism, nationalism, populism, selfishness, indifference, consumerist and a profit-oriented economy, aggression, visionless politics, digital-media manipulation, fanaticism, etc. Francis invites everyone to ‘hear the voice of God, the poor, the infirm and nature” (48) and “together process building fraternity, our home, solidarity, social friendship locally and universally” by sowing the seeds of hope, the inherent goodness of the person, uplifting the dignity of every person.
Chapter II: “A Stranger on the Road”, drawing treasures from the Bible and the teaching and life of Jesus, the Pontiff encourages us to strive towards “overcoming unbrotherly attitude and acts” and “become a Travelling Good Samaritan” through our actions, knowing that “the existence of each and every person is deeply tied to that of others” (66).
Chapter III: “Envisioning and Engendering an open World” enables us to know the intrinsic worth, dignity, beauty, sacredness and mystery that God has infused in us. “Every human heart is touched by God’s love, mercy, benevolence, goodness (88)”. The mission of every heart is to “create bonds, expands communion, fraternity, openness, belongingness, friendship, relationship, harmony, solidarity” and finds its “fuller existence in others” through caring-loving service to one’s brothers and sisters (115).
Chapter IV: “A Heart Open to the Whole World” narrates the grandeur of the spirit of human fraternity and unity. By sharing and discovering the inherent personal, spiritual, and cultural gifts, we can overcome all human made borders, limits, prejudices, pride, hatred and categorization. We can design our planet with a neighbourly, gratuitous and human family spirit.
Chapter V: “A Better Kind of Politics” explains the way a global community can build fraternity through the bonding of social friendship among peoples and nations. “God has endowed everyone with talents and innate resources” (162); “a people is part of a shared identity arising from social and cultural bonds (158)”, “politics must be renewed with nobility, effective love, charity, goodness, truth, integration, interdisciplinary dynamics, and be at the service of the greatest good of citizens, the nations, and the world” (177).
Chapter VI: “Dialogue and Friendship in Society” presents the process of dialoguing by approaching, listening, looking at, knowing, and understanding our brothers and sisters. Dialogue, based on truthfulness, love and kindness, helps the building together of a harmonized, integrated, covenanted, and humanistic world, irrespective of creed, faiths, ideologies, cultures and identity (217, 219)”.
Chapter VII: “Paths of Renewed Encounter” calls upon everyone “to write a new page of history, full of hope, peaceful, just, reconciled, rightful, lawful and prosperous, based on ‘Truth” (227)”, by “recognizing, acknowledging, forgiving and healing the centuries of wounds, inflicted upon and destroying humanity’s flesh, memory and spirit in diversified cruel forms” (248). “Let our hearts be anointed with mercy, grace, humility, gentleness and meekness”; “work together to recognize, protect and restore a person’s dignity” (233), and “build our home with a spirit of family bond” (230).
Chapter VIII: “Religions at the Service of Fraternity in our World” invites all the “Children of God” to “reawaken the spiritual energy”, “keeping their unique religious identity, root, practice, worship” to transcend “all forms of religious violence, killing, extremism and fanaticism” (285), “respect the sacredness of life” (282) and “work for the welfare of all and build the universal fraternity, drawing inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Ghandi and Blessed Charles de Foucauld” (286-287).
Oblate Charism and “Fratelli Tutti”:
Passionate love for the Crucified Christ, love for the Church, evangelizing the new faces of the poor in and through community, love for Mother Mary, and Oblateness are all parts of our charism. “Fratelli Tutti” invites us to renew and energize ourselves with the passion of the Crucified Christ, the Word of God, who took on human flesh. Our profound love for the Church encourages us to go forth “bringing the flavour of the Gospel” to the new faces of the poor as “specialists of difficult mission” and as “men of Advent” inspired by the Spirit to write a new page of history. Under the loving patroness of Mother Mary, as Oblates, we live in community and share our fraternity with Oblate Associates. We are at the service of the poor, the migrants, the victims, the underprivileged, the indigenous peoples, and dream of building a global community of fraternity and friendship with our brothers and sisters, “our own flesh!”