Jules Gomes reports for ChurchMilitant.com : In his longest encyclical yet, offering “a new vision of fraternity,” Pope Francis restates his frequently repeated pronouncements on migration, markets, media, interfaith dialogue, populism, nationalism, redistribution of wealth and the death penalty.
Extensively citing his controversial “Human Fraternity” covenant with Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb and naming the Sunni leader five times in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (“Brothers All”), Francis quotes the Qur’an affirming: “Whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity” (cf. Surah 5:32).
The 43,000-word document, released Sunday, is “addressed to all people of good will, regardless of their religious convictions,” and commends as inspirations for universal fraternity “brothers and sisters who are not Catholics: Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and many more.”
Francis reminds readers that the words “Fratelli Tutti” are taken from the sixth of 28 admonitions of St. Francis of Assisi to his brother friars focusing on the 25th admonition to love and fear one’s brother “as much when he is far from him as he would when with him.”
Introducing his encyclical with the paradigm of St. Francis of Assisi’s visit to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil in Egypt during the fifth crusade (1219), the pontiff argues that St. Francis did not intend to convert Muslims to Christianity but to express “fraternal openness” and to inspire “the vision of a fraternal society.”
“A journey of peace is possible between religions,” and while “at times fundamentalist violence is unleashed in some groups, of whatever religion, by the rashness of their leaders,” yet, “the commandment of peace is inscribed in the depths of the religious traditions that we represent,” says Pope Francis, speaking on behalf of other religions.
Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible’ and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.Tweet
Religious violence, Francis asserts, comes as a result of “a deviation from religious teachings” and “a political manipulation of religions” and even Christians can engage in “destructive forms of fanaticism” and “be caught up in networks of verbal violence” on the internet, while for certain Catholic media “limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned.”
“How can this contribute to the fraternity that our common Father asks of us?” he asks, blasting “digital campaigns of hatred and destruction” and maintaining that “digital connectivity is not enough to build bridges” or unite humanity.
Francis is disturbed by “shattered dreams” of a “unified Europe” which had kindled hopes for an integrated world. The pontiff laments a “certain regression” into “a myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism.”
Without naming political leaders or nations, the pope condemns “those who appear to feel encouraged or at least permitted by their faith to support varieties of narrow and violent nationalism, xenophobia and contempt, and even the mistreatment of those who are different.”
Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.Tweet
Such “narrow forms of nationalism” regards immigrants as “usurpers who have nothing to offer,” he writes, observing that “certain populist political regimes, as well as certain liberal economic approaches, maintain that an influx of migrants is to be prevented at all costs.”
Francis’ encyclical heavily accentuates migration. The entire fourth chapter, titled “A Heart Open to the Whole World,” is dedicated to this topic and a subchapter is labeled “Without Borders.”
Defending refugees as well as economic migrants, Francis notes that while some “migrants have fled from war, persecution and natural catastrophes,” others, “rightly, are seeking opportunities for themselves and their families” and want to create the conditions for a better future.
The Holy Father concedes that some migrants “are attracted by Western culture, sometimes with unrealistic expectations that expose them to grave disappointments” while others are exploited by “unscrupulous traffickers, frequently linked to drug cartels or arms cartels.”
Dismissing free market capitalism as a “dogma of neoliberal faith,” Francis quotes his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ pointing out how “the Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.”
Francis also categorically condemns both war and the death penalty as no longer justifiable on any grounds.
In an age of “nuclear, chemical and biological warfare,” war is no longer a solution, “because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits.”
Hence, “it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war,'” he declares.
Contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture and 2,000 years of Sacred Tradition, Francis re-states his abrogation of the death penalty: “Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible’ and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.”
I do not want to speak of divine retribution, nor would it be sufficient to say that the harm we do to nature is itself the punishment for our offenses.Tweet
In a section on the pandemic caused by the Wuhan virus, Francis repeats his refrain on “nature’s revenge.” He writes: “I do not want to speak of divine retribution, nor would it be sufficient to say that the harm we do to nature is itself the punishment for our offenses.”
Unsurprisingly, in a document pregnant with socio-political concerns the pontiff does not mention “salvation” or the uniqueness of Jesus and his salvific work on the cross even once in the eight chapters of his encyclical.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is acknowledged as someone who “wants to give birth to a new world, where all of us are brothers and sisters, where there is room for all those whom our societies discard, where justice and peace are resplendent.”
In Francis’ encyclical, the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” is not God’s offer of repentance and salvation, but becomes “the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity” which gives rise “to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, [and] to universal communion with the entire human family.”
The pope refrains from mentioning “evangelization” or “the proclamation of the Gospel,” quoting Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate to reassure readers that “the Church esteems the ways in which God works in other religions, and ‘rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.'”
Abortion is also not explicitly mentioned, though the “unborn” and the “elderly” are named in a sub-section titled “A ‘Throwaway’ World.” However, the pope condemns racism as “a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.”
Fratelli Tutti concludes with two prayers. The first is a generic “Prayer to the Creator” which invokes God as “Father of our human family” but does not name Jesus or the Holy Trinity.
The second, is an “Ecumenical Christian Prayer,” which addresses God as “Trinity of love” and petitions God to grant that “Christians may live the Gospel, discovering Christ in each human being.”
Francis signed the encyclical on St Francis’ tomb Saturday afternoon after celebrating Holy Mass in the crypt of the lower basilica in Assisi.