Fratelli Tutti’s View on the World Today and Reflection
By Dr. Paul Hwang, Director of ALL Forum
Let’s briefly introduce chapters 1 and 2 of the encyclical from the perspective of ‘See-JudgeAct’, the empirical methodology that has become the traditional methodology of Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs) since Vatican II especially
the document Gaudium et Spes. As shown in the reality analysis of “The Joy of the Gospel” or Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ view on the reality of world today seems reflected from the title “Dark Clouds over a Closed World.” The Pope points out one by one how the world is closed and what the dark clouds in the closedworld mean.
First, there are movements for peace and friendship, but more extreme and aggressive nationalism, religious fanaticism, and new forms of selfishness are spreading. Globalization has brought all peoples in the world much closer, but not like the relation of brother and sisters. Cultural colonization is taking place, with individual interests prioritized and community life weakened, and as a result, only consumerism and individualism are emphasized. In many countries, economic polarization has become a tool of politics, lacking sound discussions or plans for everyone to improve people’s lives and develop common good. In a world where “throw-away culture” is prevalent, not only food and goods but also humans are often treated as such. Poor and disabled people, human foetuses, and the elderly are considered “no longer necessary.” The reality that the elderly are dying in indifference and isolation under the Covid-19 situation, and increase in racism, makes us ask back the ultimate purpose of economic growth and human development.
Today, human rights and human dignity are not respected equally in many countries. Many forms of injustice persist due to economic systems that do not hesitate to exploit, abandon, and kill humans. And women do not enjoy the same rights as men, and human trafficking or modern slavery is practiced in many parts of the world. The joint declaration of Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb in 2019, which became a basic spirit for “All Brothers” or Fratelli Tutti, clarifies this point. “In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity.” (“Human Fraternity”)
We save the whole human race by saving one person, which is also emphasized in All Brothers. “True, a worldwide tragedy like the Covid-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved
together.” (no. 32)
Modern digital culture takes off, monitors, and anonymizes people’s lives. Digital media gives the illusion of communication, but it can prevent the development of real interpersonal relationships by losing contact with specific reality. However, the Pope emphasizes that “True wisdom demands an encounter with reality.” (no. 47). We can find the truth in the conversation we have together, and it requires patience. Information without wisdom prevents you from realizing the core of the problem or the meaning of life. The process of building brotherhood is only possible when
you are free to meet. This open attitude in Asian situations leads to the wisdom of acknowledging and accepting religious and cultural diversity and pluralism. Such attitude is also shown in the joint declaration: “In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as
the code of conduct” (Human Fraternity)
In Chapter 2, Pope Francis continues the aforementioned problems with the theme of “Who is my neighbour” in the “Good Samaritan” (Lk 10:25-37) among the parables of Jesus in the gospel. In Jesus’ time, the Jews ignored and hated Samaritans, saying they lived in areas where pagan rituals were practiced, considering them as filthy and repulsive beings. Jesus completely reverses the conventional idea in the parable, stressing that it was not the priest or the Levine, but the
ignored Samaritan who helped the abandoned Jews. The Samaritans went beyond cultural and historical barriers and became borderless neighbours to the wounded Jews. There are many parts in the Bible that ask people who are far from related to their neighbours or even strangers to embrace them. The Old Testament texts (Ex 22:20 and 23:9; Lev 19:33-34; Num 24:21-22) remind us of the memories of the Jews once living as strangers in Egypt. Even in the New Testament, it appears several times (1 Jn 2:10-11; 3:14; 4:20), including the phrase “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Gal 5:14).
In this context, we can better understand the importance of the Good Samaritan parable. This story asks us to rediscover our calling to build new social bonds as citizens of each country and around the world. We are created to pursue love and cannot be indifferent to pain. We will meet a suffering person anytime soon, so “Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritan or indifferent bystanders.” (no. 69) Such a Good Samaritan story is constantly being present in our daily lives. We can say that the core of faith is to participate in creating a just society that cares for the suffering. Therefore, in the final document of the Second World Bishop’s Synod, Justice in the World(1971) it is clear: “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (no.6)