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New encyclical Fratelli Tutti offers roadmap to build a culture of dialogue

Encyclical letter: Pope Francis waves from his car after celebrating Mass and signing his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship at the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy. Photo: CNS

AS the world looks beyond the global pandemic, the Pope’s new encyclical Fratelli Tutti offers a roadmap “not just for some, but for everyone”, according to Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

“Pope Francis has spoken of the need for an open heart that gives birth to an open world, and this at a time when so many hearts and doors and borders are closed,” Archbishop Coleridge said, reflecting on the 40,000-word letter that translated means ‘Brothers and Sisters All’.

“It is a vision of the dignity of every human being from which flows the call to build a new culture of fraternity and dialogue.” 

Archbishop Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the Pontiff took inspiration from St Francis of Assisi, starting work on Fratelli Tutti before the outbreak of COVID-19, however its theme became “even more important as we make our way through the weird landscape of the pandemic, wondering what lies beyond it”.

Pope Francis wrote early in the encyclical: “It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity.”

“Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travellers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all,” Pope Francis wrote.

 “Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation.

“God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us’.”

Archbishop Coleridge said that in a world riven by conflict and divisions the Pope sets himself to undo all kinds of obstacles.

“The mystical and ecstatic meet and marry the political and economic; politics and charity join hands; walls are knocked down, bridges are built; the rich and powerful listen to the poor and powerless who are allowed to speak first; virtues considered private, like kindness and tenderness, become social and even political virtues,” he said.

 “… the only realistic way into a future that learns the hard lessons of this time when we have come to see how fragile we are and how much we depend upon each other. 

“It’s the only practical way beyond dystopia into a more human and civilized world, the only way beyond a gilded barbarism where the social contract is shattered and the brutality of chacun pour soi (to each their own) holds sway.”

Archbishop Coleridge noted many of those whom Pope Francis described as often undervalued or treated inequitably – women, older people, unborn children, people who were trafficked, Indigenous peoples, people with disability, migrants and refugees – were similarly those left on the margin or cast aside in Australia.

“In this country we may be tempted to think that the Pope is talking about elsewhere, but he’s not. True, he’s talking about the whole world – but he’s also talking about us,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“Pope Francis offers a grand yet simple vision of human interconnectedness. 

“We’re all connected to each other in ways we scarcely imagine. Our task now is to work out what this means in practice as we look beyond the pandemic.

“In what he offers in this letter, the Pope can help with that. 

“It’s impassioned yet tender, visionary yet practical, radical yet reasonable.” 

Click here to read Archbishop Coleridge’s full reflection.

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