Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti (FT) resonates as a passionate tribute to a fraternity without borders. If fraternity has a distinctive “local flavor,” Francis asserts, it is necessarily lived in a context of universality. Living a kind of fraternity that “integrates and unites” should appear as a kind of imperative, as an obvious fact that is accepted; yet, as Francis writes, “there are 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.
Faith, and the humanism it inspires, must maintain a critical sense in the face of these tendencies, and prompt an immediate response whenever they rear their heads. For this reason, it is important that catechesis and preaching speak more directly and clearly about the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, our conviction of the inalienable dignity of each person, and our reasons for loving and accepting all our brothers and sisters” (FT 86).
We would like to present here the thought of a Chinese author who, 2,500 years ago reflected on the way to establish just and fraternal relationships between individuals, communities and nations. He did so with a different logic from that followed by Christian theology. But his way of dealing with the issue provides a stimulating counterpoint to the quest we are pursuing today to live fraternity more intensely and more broadly.