When Fratelli Tutti the new encyclical by Pope Francis was issued in October 2020 it rang an alarm bell with a distinct number of readers. Isn’t that about men, brothers, and what about women, sisters? The title leads one to make that assumption. Now, having spent a great deal of time with the pope’s document but also with biographies and writings of and about St Francis, whose own words were the inspiration for the pope choosing that title I see it in a different light. Firstly, St Francis lived over 800 years ago and having read some of the writings from that period it is clear that the style and concepts are quite time-bound. But in a way the term “brothers all” can still have a current flavour, as it could seem to apply to university or college fraternities or brotherhoods. Maybe South African soccer teams would speak of bra, or bru, or bro. Calling one another sister and speaking about sisters in a fraternal or, correctly speaking, sororal/sisterly sense is also common.
Apart from its sexist connotation another problem with the word fraternity is that in common parlance it is just not used. Solidarity is an alternative but one that tends to have political overtones, or has become closely associated with Covid-19 and the WHO. It has struck me forcibly that many of these kind of concepts used and promoted by Pope Francis and the Church are hardly ever mentioned in the general media. Laudato Si says almost everything that needs to be said about the ecology and climate change and yet very few people, even Catholics, have heard of it. How do we get this very informed and wise thinking out into the public domain other than through lots of promotion? The Laudato Si’ programme on Radio Veritas on Tuesday 9-10 am is definitely worth listening to and of course it is mentioned frequently on my weekly FAMILY MATTERS.
Taking all that into consideration I am sold on the concept of “fraternity” in the way used by Pope Francis and his companion the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and the other members of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity in the context of building a society of human and social friendship. I couldn’t put its vision better than in the words of the document.
In the name of God, who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace:
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:
In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalize and those most in need , orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and countries, victims of wars, persecution and injustice, the weak, those who life in fear, prisoners of war and those tortured in any part of the world:
In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal:
In the name of this fraternity torn apart by policies of extremism and division, by system of unrestrained profit or hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women:
In the name of freedom, that God has given to all human beings, in the name of justice and mercy, in the name of all persons of goodwill:
In the name of God and of everything stated thus far, we declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct, reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.
At the virtual award meeting on 4 February awards for their work towards world peace and religious reconciliation were presented to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General and Latifa ibn Ziaten Moroccan-French activist a mother who lost her son to an act of terrorism and founded a peace building movement for young people.
Many quotations from Fratelli Tutti are used in the DAILY THOUGHTS. Of particular interest is the fact that Pope Francis uses the family as a model for fraternity. He writes, “working to overcome our divisions without losing our identity as individuals presume that a basic sense of belonging is present. Society benefits when each person feels truly at home. In a family parents, grandparents and children all feel at home. FT230. Valentine’s Day is a timely and welcome celebration of Loving Fraternity for couples and families.
MARFAM LENTEN DAILY THOUGHTS are collected in a booklet under the title LOVE IS HIS LAW, LOVE IS HIS WAY. They are built on a daily scripture reading, a Look at Life, a thought on the life and times of St Francis and quotation from Pope Francis. I have found much theological and spiritual enrichment in getting closer to Francis, the simple, humble, little man whose grand vision is capturing the attention of the 21st century on issues of ecology and climate. He definitely warrants deeper study and a Lenten journey is an ideal vehicle. Toni Rowland FAMILY WEEKLY 10 FEBRUARY 2021