Let me share with you Fr. Varghese Paul’s last article in English which he wrote and sent to me a month back on my humble request to him to draft a review paper on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical letter “Fratella Tuti” for the 11.2 July 2021 issue of our International Journal on Multicultural Literature (IJML). He has been suffering from urinary problems for more than a year and it was with much difficulty he completed his assignment. I feel extremely sad that he is not with us to see the paper published. He departed us on 10th April 2021at Baroda inflicted by coronavirus.
POPE FRANCIS’ ENCYLICAL LETTER: “FRATELLI TUTTI”
Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship
Fr Varghese Paul, SJ
“Fratelli Tutti” is the third Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis. “The Joy of Gospel”, 24 November 2013, and “Laudato Si”, 24 May 2015 are the other two. Significantly “Fratelli Tutti’ was signed at Assisi on October 3, 2020 and released on the feast of Francis Assisi on October 4. “Fratelli Tutti” like “Laudato Si” is addressed not only to Christians but to all people of good will irrespective of religion and culture. And the whole world has taken note of “Fratelli Tutti”.
Fratelli Tutti, the two Italian words means brothers and sisters all. St Francis used to address his brothers, sisters all with those simple, affectionate words. When George Cardinal Borgolio assumed the spiritual head of Roman Catholic Church as Pope, he took the name of the medieval saint, St Francis imitating and appreciating his affection and love for all creations. The use of Fratelli Tutti proclaims that Pope himself wants to follow the footsteps of the saint. Obviously, Pope Francis wants to speak about world fraternal friendship through his encyclical letter.
In the first chapter Dark clouds over a close world Pope Francis has highlighted most problems of the world. Reports from around the world indicate that people are listening to the Pontiff.
Here a communist leader and member of Rajya Sabha, Binoy Viswam’s words are worth recalling. In an article under the title ‘POPE AND THE COMMUNIST’ in Indian Express, November 5, 2020 he writes: “The world has been observing the words and deeds of Pope Francis since he occupied the Holy See of the Catholic Faith in 2013. His concern for an equitable and just society is palpable. Whatever may be the outlook and philosophy of those who desire a better world, he opens up possibilities of consensus.”
As Viswam notes, from the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate the whole world is keenly observing Pope Francis’ every word and action. His concern for equality and just society is obvious and very clear. Let others’ philosophy and life view of a better world and of welfare state be what they may be but Francis offers common path acceptable to all.
For instance, as in the New Testament, fraternal love is highlighted with many examples from the Bible in chapter two A stranger on the road. Giving the story of Good Samaritan, the man abandoned on the way side, Pope Francis articulate, “Love enables us to create one great family, where all of us feel at home.”
Pope Francis holds that the resources of the earth belong to the entire humanity and that the rich have no special ownership or authority over them. Pope Francis believes in a borderless world as St Francis did. St Francis in his time overcoming all difficulties of wars, languages, culture and religion visited Sultan Malik-el-Kamil, in Egypt. Similarly Pope Francis went to meet the Sultan with same attitude that he instilled in his disciplines.
Recalling the event of eight hundred years ago “Fratelli Tutti” says, Francis did not wage a war of words aimed imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God. He understood that “God is love and those who abide in love abide in God” (1 John 4: 16). Here the importance given to family is very clear. Families are the first place where values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.
Pope Francis speaks on a person’s spirituality and boarderless families in chapter three Envisaging and engendering an open world. He says a person’s s spirituality is seen in his love. The spiritual stature of a person’s life is measured by love which always takes first place and leads us to seek better for the life of the other, far from selfishness.
Pope does not string from addressing world problems like immigration, problems of persecution, immoral trafficking, and natural calamities. In chapter four A heart open to the whole world, such topics are addressed with a sense of fraternal concern and social commitment. Pope Francis clearly states his conviction. He writes that “A country that moves forward while remaining solidly grounded in its original cultural substratum is a treasure for the whole humanity. We need to develop the awareness that nowadays we are either all saved together or no one is saved.”
As Pope Francis points out in chapter five we need A better kind of politics centred on human dignity and subjected to finance because market place alone cannot resolve every problem. Pope says Good politics will seek ways of including communities at every level of social life in order to recalibrate and reorient globalization.
Pope Francis believes “The market place by itself cannot resolve every problem, however much we are asked to believe this dogma of neoliberal faith.”
In chapter six Dialogue and friendship in society Pope Francis says that authentic social dialogue involves the ability to respect the other’s point of view and to admit that it may include legitimate convictions and concerns. Pope Francis says, in a pluralistic society, dialogue is the best way to realize what ought always to be affirmed and respected apart from any ephemeral consensus. He reminds us that no one can possess the whole truth or satisfy his or her every desire, since that pretention would lead to nullifying others by denying their rights.
In chapter seven Paths of renewed encounter Pope tells us clearly that peace is connected to truth, justice and mercy. True encounter is pro active and aims at forming a society based on services to others. Quoting the Bishops of South Korea, Pope says that true peace can be achieved only when we strive for justice through dialogue, pursuing reconciliation and mutual development.
Here Pope’s quotation from the Latin American Bishop is significant. “Only the closeness that makes us friends can enable us to appreciate deeply the value of the poor today, their legitimate desires, and their own manner of living the faith. The option for the poor should lead us to friendship with the poor.”
Pope Francis is very articulate about true love and forgiveness. He says, “We are called to love everyone, without exception; at the same time, loving an oppressor does not mean allowing him to keep oppressing us, or let him think what he does is acceptable. On the contrary, true love for an oppressor means seeking ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping of a power that he does not know how to use, that diminishes his own humanity and that of others”.
Pope Francis is deadly against two things, war and death penalty. In the past, war has been justified as lesser evil against defeating greater evil. He wants the money for the production of war materials should be spent for alleviation of hunger and poverty in the world. Similarly Pope Francis opposes death penalty as no one has the authority or right to take life of another person.
In the chapter 8 on Religions at the service of Fraternity in our world Pope Francis appeals the world fraternity for defending justice in the society. Referring to a statement of Indian Bishops Pope Francis says “The goal of dialogue is to establish friendship, peace and harmony, and to share spiritual and moral values and experiences in a spirit of truth and love”.
Concluding his appeal Pope Francis recalls some great men and saints from different religions like Saint Francis Assisi, Martin Luther Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Ghandhi and many others. Blessed Charles de Foucauld is specially mentioned in the list. Pope Francis ends the encyclical letter with two short prayers: (1) A Prayer to the Creator and (2) An Ecumenical Christian Prayer.
People who have read the Encyclical say that “Fratelli Tutti” is worth not just reading but medicating the text with your heart. I totally agree. (1315 words)
Fr. Varghese Paul, Chollamadam, SJ, departed us at 7.30 am today (10th April 2021) at Baroda. He was 77. He is a native of Avoly village, Ernakulam District, Kerala. He has been serving as the Executive Committee Member of GIEWEC. Fr. Varghese is a renowned multilingual writer. He has published 54 books of which 46 are in Gujarati and the rest are in other Indian languages and English. Fr. Varghese was the founder-director and chief editor of South Asian Religious News (SAR News) at New Delhi. He has been serving as the Chairman of Gujarati Lekhak Mandal (Writers’ Association), a secular organization registered as Charitable Trust and also as a Trade Union of Gujarati writers. Fr Varghese has extensively travelled in India and abroad for studies and international conferences of writers visiting 35 countries. He has won national and international awards for his writings including an award from Gujarati Sahitya Academy. GIEWEC pays tearful adieu to its beloved senior member.