Pope Francis released his new encyclical "Fratelli tuti" on Sunday, October 4, 2020 from Assisi, Itay. The lengthy Full Text in English can be viewed here: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20201003_enciclica-fratelli-tutti.html According to Vatican News, fraternity and social friendship are the ways the Pontiff indicates to build a better, more just and peaceful world, with the contribution of all: people and institutions. With an emphatic confirmation of a ‘no’ to war and to globalized indifference.
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SUMMARY of Fratelli tutti:
1. Upon reading this Encyclical, even the least attentive observer must ask: what is the place and meaning of fraternity in international relations? Anyone interested in how relations are conducted on a global level would expect an answer in terms of statements, regulations, statistics and perhaps even actions. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to be guided by how Pope Francis assesses the facts and situations of today, the answer is different: “Global society is suffering from grave structural deficiencies that cannot be resolved by piecemeal solutions or quick fixes” (FT, 179).
The Encyclical not only considers fraternity as an instrument or an ideal; it outlines a culture of fraternity to be applied in international relations. A culture, of course: the image is that of a knowledge from which the method and the objective are developed.
As for the method: fraternity is not a trend or a fashion which develops over time or at a particular time, but rather the result of concrete acts. The Encyclical reminds us of integration between countries, the primacy of rules over force, economic development and cooperation and, above all, the use of dialogue, seen not as an anaesthetic or an occasional “band-aid”, but as a weapon with a destructive potential far superior to any other armament. In fact, if weapons and with them wars destroy human lives, the environment, and hope, to the point of extinguishing the future of people and communities, dialogue destroys the barriers in the heart and mind, opens up spaces for forgiveness, and promotes reconciliation. Indeed, it is the instrument that justice requires in order to be able to assert itself in its most authentic meaning and import. How much does the absence of dialogue allow international relations to degenerate or rely on the heavy hand of power, allowing opposition and force to prevail! Dialogue, on the other hand, especially when it is “persistent and courageous does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine” (FT, 198). Indeed, looking at international events, dialogue also has victims. Among its victims are those who do not accept the logic of conflicts at all costs, or are seen as naive and inexperienced merely because they dare to look beyond the immediate and partial interests of individual realities that risk ignoring the overall view. Dialogue is a vision that progresses and endures over time. Dialogue requires patience and edges close to martyrdom. This is why the Encyclical refers to dialogue as an instrument of fraternity, which makes those who dialogue different from those “people holding important social positions yet lacking in real concern for the common good, who do not hold in their hearts the common good.” (FT,63)
We are now at the objective. Along with religious visions and various spiritual outlooks, history speaks of fraternity and describes its beauty and its effects; but these are often associated with a slow and difficult path, almost an ideal dimension energized by underlying reforming impulses or revolutionary processes. Another constant temptation is to limit fraternity to a level of individual maturity, reserved exclusively for those who share the same path. According the Encyclical, however, the objective is an ascending path driven by that healthy subsidiarity which starts from the individual and expands to encompass the family, then social and state dimensions, all the way to the international community. As Francis reminds us, this is why “it is necessary to develop not only a spirituality of fraternity but at the same time a more efficient world organisation, to help resolve pressing problems" if fraternity is to be an effective instrument in international relations.” (FT, 165)
2. Understood in this light, fraternity with its method and its objective can contribute to the renewal of principles guiding international life; it can inspire the guidelines necessary for facing new challenges and lead the plurality of actors working at a global level to respond to the needs of the human family. These are actors with a crucial responsibility in terms of politics and shared solutions, especially in the face of realities of war, hunger, underdevelopment, and the destruction of our common home and all its consequences. Such actors are aware of how globalization, confronted by real problems that demand solutions, has displayed even recently only negative aspects. To express this truth, the Pope refers to the experience of the pandemic which has “exposed our false certainties" (FT, 7), when what is needed is action capable of providing answers and not only analysing the facts. This action is still missing and may continue to be lacking, even with everything that research and science achieve each day. It is lacking because "it has become evident that there is an inability to act all together. Although we are hyper-connected, there is a fragmentation which makes it more difficult to solve problems affecting us all” (Ibid.).
What we find on today’s international scene is an obvious contradiction between the common good and the tendency to give priority to the interests of States, even individual States; this can stem from a belief in "free zones", or it can be due to the logic that what is not forbidden is allowed. The result is that "the multitude of the abandoned remain at the mercy of the possible good will of some" (FT, 165). Fraternity is the exact opposite of this: it introduces the idea of general interests, those capable of forming a true solidarity and of changing not only the structure of the international Community but also the dynamics of relationships within it. In fact, once the supremacy of these general interests has been accepted, the sovereignty and independence of each State cease to be absolutes—they must be subject to "the sovereignty of law, knowing that justice is a prerequisite for achieving the ideal of universal brotherhood" (FT, 173). This process is not automatic but require4s "courage and generosity to freely establish certain common goals and ensure the worldwide fulfilment of certain essential norms" (FT, 174).
In Francis's perspective, therefore, fraternity is how to bring to fruition the commitments made according to the ancient adage pacta sunt servanda: to concretely respect the legitimately expressed common will; to resolve disputes by means of diplomacy and negotiation and via multilateral institutions; and the broadest desire to achieve "a truly universal common good and the protection of the weakest States" (Ibid.).
There is no lack of reference, in this regard, to a constant theme of the Church's social teaching, that of the "government"—governance, in today’s parlance—of the international Community, its members and its Institutions. Pope Francis, consistent with all his predecessors, supports the need for a "form of world authority regulated by law", but this does not mean "thinking of a personal authority" (FT, 172). Fraternity replaces the centralization of powers with a collegial function—which is not unlike the "synodal" vision applied to the governance of the Church, which Francis embraces—determined by "more effective world organizations, equipped with the power to provide for the global common good, the elimination of hunger and poverty the sure defence of fundamental human rights.” (Ibid.).
3. Operating in the international reality via the culture of fraternity requires acquiring a method and an objective capable of replacing those paradigms that no longer have the capacity to grapple with the challenges and needs that the international Community meets on its current journey, burdened by fatigue and contradictions. In fact, there is noticeable concern about the will of some to abolish the reasons for and content of multilateralism, which is necessary now more than ever in a world society in which the fragmentation of ideas and decisions reflects an increasing post-globalism. Such an attitude results from an exclusively pragmatic approach that not only forgets principles and rules but also ignores the multiple cries for help that are now constantly and increasingly heard and so can even compromise international stability. These are the oppositions and clashes that degenerate into wars which, due to the complexity of their root causes, are destined to extend over time without immediate and viable solutions. Simply calling out for peace is of little use. Pope Francis tells us that "negotiation often becomes necessary for shaping concrete paths to peace. Yet the processes of change that lead to lasting peace are crafted above all by peoples; each individual can act as an effective leaven by the way he or she lives each day. Great changes are not produced behind desks or in offices." (FT, 231)
As we go through the Encyclical, we feel called to our individual and collective responsibilities in the face of new trends and needs emerging on the international scene. Proclaiming ourselves brothers and sisters and making social friendship our habit are probably not enough. Just as, defining international relations in terms of peace or security, development, or a generic appeal to respect for fundamental rights—are no longer sufficient, despite the fact that in recent decades they have constituted the raison d'être of diplomatic action, of the role of multilateral organizations, of the prophetic action of so many figures, of philosophical education, and even a characteristic of the religious dimension.
The effective role of fraternity is disruptive, if you allow me, because it is linked to new concepts that replace peace with peacemakers, development with co-workers, and respect for rights with attention to the needs of each neighbour, be it a person, a people or a community. The theological root of the Encyclical tells us this very clearly in that it revolves around the category of fraternal love, which beyond all belonging, even identity, is capable of concretely realizing itself in the one "who has become a neighbour." (FT, 81). The image of the Good Samaritan is there as a warning and a model.
To the leaders of Nations, to diplomats, to those who work for peace and development, fraternity proposes the transformation of international life from mere co-existence, almost necessary, to a dimension based on that common sense of "humanity" that already now inspires and supports so many international rules and structures, thus promoting effective coexistence. It is the image of a reality in which peoples and persons themselves come to the fore, with an institutional apparatus capable of guaranteeing not particular interests, but the desired world common good (cf. FT, 257).
Fraternity therefore has as its protagonist the human family, which in its relationships and differences travels towards full unity, but with a vision far removed from universalism or abstract sharing, as from certain degenerations of globalization (cf. FT, 100). Through the culture of fraternity, Pope Francis calls each and every one to love the other people, the other nation, as one’s own, and thus to build relationships, rules and institutions, while abandoning the illusions of power, isolation, closed visions, selfish and partisan actions—because "the simple sum of individual interests is not capable of generating a better world for all humanity" (FT, 105).