Eight years after his election, Pope Francis has written a new encyclical that brings together much of his previous teachings (cf. Fratelli Tutti, No. 5).
When he began his pontificate, the first idea Francis referred to was “fraternity.” He bowed his head in front of the people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and defined the bishop-people relationship as a “path of fraternity,” stating this desire: “Let us always pray for each other. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great fraternity.”
The encyclical’s title is a direct quotation from the Admonitions of St. Francis. It indicates a fraternity that extends not only to human beings, but also to the earth, in full harmony with his other papal encyclical, Laudato Si’.
Fratelli Tutti addresses both fraternity and social friendship; together they are the central message of his text. The realism that runs through the pages dissolves any romantic emptiness that always lurks about whenever we speak of fraternity. For Francis, fraternity is not just an emotion, a feeling or an idea – no matter how noble – but a fact that also implies an outcome, an action (and the freedom to act): “Whose brother can I be?”