‘Fratelli Tutti’: A call to personal encounter

Lindsey Weishar



Pope Francis' new encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship," gives a tender challenge to "all people of goodwill" in a world fractured by political and economic ideologies. Instead of seeing the person from another nation, religion or group as "other," the Holy Father challenges us to see a neighbor, a brother and sister.

To encourage us to resist "the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, walls on the land, in order to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other people," he offers the parable of the good Samaritan (No. 27).

In this parable, we discover "how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others" and to "embrace the world" in the midst of its myriad sorrows (Nos. 67, 78).

Such compassion requires much from us. It necessitates the humility to see where the divisions lie in our own hearts.

Do we love the migrant to the point of wanting to shelter him or her? Do we serve the poor not only by giving food, clothing and shelter, but by revising those systems that make poverty profitable to a few? Do we love those we've deemed it justifiable to kill through war or the death penalty enough to realize that their elimination is not an act of love?

Pope Francis calls all people to a global consciousness, a "universal fraternity" that is at once balanced with "social friendship," where we desire to protect the dignity and cultures of our brothers and sisters across the globe and in our own communities.

Pope Francis envisions the "many-faceted polyhedron" as the proper shape of this love, "where differences coexist, complementing, enriching and reciprocally illuminating one another, even amid disagreements and reservations" (No. 215).

He sees dialogue as a way in which nations and people can prevent turning in on themselves, a movement into the self that breeds isolation, hatred, violence and indifference.

Dialogue is the means by which we broaden our realities and work toward peace:

"In a true spirit of dialogue, we grow in our ability to grasp the significance of what others say and do, even if we cannot accept it as our own conviction. In this way, it becomes possible to be frank and open about our beliefs, while continuing to discuss, to seek points of contact and, above all, to work and struggle together" (No. 203).

The continual challenge is to see a person or people as more important than their beliefs. When it comes to participating in the political realm, Pope Francis iterates that "politics too must make room for a tender love of others;" and "in political activity, we should remember that, 'appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love'" (Nos. 194-195).

"Fratelli Tutti" is ultimately a call to a peace that can only be achieved in cooperation with the world and with each other. It is a call to a "culture of encounter" with our brothers and sisters (No. 30).

Such encounters should move us to action; to service that "always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, 'suffers' that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people" (No. 115).

This peace becomes possible when we enter the wounds of our nations and our world, acknowledge suffering and work tirelessly to restructure systems that fail to serve us all. Pope Francis makes clear that undistorted religious practice aids in the creation of a more peaceful world.

Until we acknowledge that the good of one person in this world is our own personal good and the pain of one in this world is our own personal pain, there will be no peace. The only way forward is to be brothers and sisters all.

Lindsey Weishar is a poet and freelance writer from the Diocese of Peoria.