“Fratelli Tutti!” With these now famous words Pope Francis opened his new encyclical on fraternity and social friendship, showing that he was again inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, the saint of fraternal love for all creatures and especially our abandoned brothers and sisters.
Pope Francis has focused his doctrine on the proclamation of the essential obligations of Christianity: the adoration of God and the service of our neighbors. He states: “We believers are challenged to return to our sources, in order to concentrate on what is essential: worship of God and love for our neighbor, so that some of our teachings, taken out of context, do not end up feeding forms of contempt, hatred, xenophobia or negation of others” (FT 282). Several times, in accordance with fundamental teaching, the pope returns to the themes necessary for our conversion and the conversion of the world. He does so in the manner of Saint Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises (ES), where repetition is the key to “feeling and tasting internally” the truths that the Spirit proposes today to the Church and the world (ES 2).
Pope Francis is not bothered by his critics, those who claim his speeches are too concerned with politics and say little about eschatology. Rather, following the criteria that the Lord has given us in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he removes eschatology from the sphere of abstract affirmations about the end of time and places it in our present-day reality, on the “roadside,” where we “come to know ourselves through our relationships with our brothers and sisters,” whenever “we encounter a person who is suffering” (FT 69).
If anyone had any remaining doubts about what Francis wishes to announce and witness during his pontificate, in this new encyclical he returns to point out where social issues, the economy, politics and religious life play out, undivided and unconfused: “Today there are more and more injured people. The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project” (FT 69).
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