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FRATELLI TUTTI – The Social Encyclical on Fraternity

admin / January 8, 2021

Fausto Gomez OP

Fratelli Tutti (FT) is the title of the new encyclical of Pope Francis. The title is a quote from a talk of St Francis of Assisi with his Franciscan brothers: all brothers. Thesubtitle is “on Fraternity and Social Friendship.” In this encyclical, Pope Francis speaks as a human being, a brother, a believer in God the Creator and a follower of Christ, the Son of God and the Good Samaritan. The third encyclical of Pope Francis is addressed to all men and women of good will, to believers and Christians. 


Fratelli Tutti is a social encyclical and therefore develops thesocial dimension of human life in community. FT follows and updates the great documents of the social doctrine of the Church, in particular the main papal encyclicals, such as Populorum Progressio (PP), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (SRS), Deus Caritas Est (DCE), and Laudato Si’ (LS). And the documents of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), above all the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes (GS).   Like all other documents of the magisterium, Fratelli Tutti is grounded on the Sacred Scriptures and Christian Tradition, represented by Fathers of the Church and outstanding theologians. Pope Francis adds – as in other of his documents – quotes from modern authors, philosophers, writers, poets and artists.  Moreover, the Argentine Pope quotes also from pastoral letters of various regional and national episcopal conferences. The social encyclical was signed by the Pope in Assisi on October 3, 2020, and issued worldwide on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. It has eight chapters divided in 287 numbers, covered in 187 pages with 288 footnotes.

Fratelli Tutti is undoubtedly an important and relevant social encyclical, an encyclical letter for the twenty-first century. General purpose: to contribute to the development of a global community of fraternity, based on the practice of social friendship, in the service of the common good (FT, no 154). Basic truth: all human beings are brothers and sisters (FT, no 128). At the human level, all humans are children of mother earth (St Francis of Assisi) and at the level of faith, children of God: all men and women are creatures of God called to be his children (cf FT 271). 

The two central concepts of FT are fraternity and social friendship. The term fraternity is well known to all and a constant basic value and virtue of human and Christian and life. The concept of social friendship is rather new. It is rooted in and called for by fraternity, and it is directly connected with another traditional idea of the social magisterium after Vatican II: social charity or love (cf. FT 182). Pope Francis describes social friendship as a borderless friendship, universal openness to all because all human beings are citizens of a country and of the world, members of the human family and brothers and sisters of each other (cf. FT 99).

The social path proposed by the Pope with great conviction, enthusiasm and hope sounds very attractive. But – some ask – is the Pope’s recipe for a just and fraternal world a bit idealistic, utopian or, in the Pope’s own terms, “wildly unrealistic?” It is not: the Argentine Pope concretizes well the ethical values and principles needed in different social, political, economic and cultural situations, and presents realistically and dramatically the human faces of people actually suffering from the social illnesses of our divided world.


The first of the eight chapters of FT presents the social reality of our world, characterized by clouds that darken the human and natural environment. The other seven chapters face the social reality hopefully from a humanist, ethical, and Christian perspective. Through the pages of the encyclical, Pope Francis searches for “a ray of light in the midst of what we are experiencing” (FT 56).

Chapter 1 entitled “Dark clouds over a closed world”presents the social reality of our world and its main problems and shattered dreams. Obstacles on the path to a just and fraternal world: radical individualism, inequality and injustice, human trafficking, unemployment, unbridle consumerism, racism, intolerance, narrow nationalism, relativism, fanaticism, violence of different kinds, discrimination, negative globalization and nationalist localization and irresponsible populism, invasive and hostile digital communication, indifference to migrants, refugees, women, the poor and the elderly (FT 64). 

In chapter 2, entitled “A stranger on the road,” Pope Francis explains Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan (cf Lk 10:25-37; FT, 56 ) and invites us all to be Good Samaritans and not passersby – like the priest and the Levite of the Parable –, but helpers of the wounded on the roads of life.

In chapter 3, the Pope reflects on “Envisaging and engendering an open world,”and underlines the incomparable value of love as an essential characteristic of our human nature. This basic and encompassing love and charity is the soul of human and Christian social commitment that inclines us to encounter others as members of the same human family and as brothers and sisters.

Chapter 4 develops the idea of “A heart open to the whole world”and emphasizes the fundamental fact that we all belong to a concrete family and are part of the larger human family. It tackles the grave problem of migrants in our world and asks for a global response. It describes globalization and localization to emphasize that negative globalism and local narcissism are obstacles to fraternity and social friendship: both need to be harmonized and thus become mutually enriching (cf. TF 141-146).

In chapter 5, entitled “A better kind of politics,”Pope Francis criticizes the corruption of politics and underlines that politics is a lofty vocation dedicated to the service of the common good. He points out the ethical values and principles that are to be practiced by politicians (and by all), namely, human dignity and rights, justice, truth, freedom, dialogue, solidarity and subsidiarity, fraternity, communion and compassion. These are ways to the common good and social peace (cf. FT 182).

Chapter 6, entitled “Dialogue and friendship in society” underlines social dialogue for a new culture: the ethics of a new culture that integrates country citizenship and world citizenship.

Chapter 7, with the title “Paths of renewed encounter,”focuses on peace: on social peace and world peace. Authentic global peace is composed of three essential elements: truth, justice and mercy (FT 227). Pope Francis is deeply concerned with what he calls the cultivation of “a painful memory,” reconciliation and forgiveness. In the last part of chapter seven, the Pope reflects on two false answers to social peace: war and the death penalty.

Chapter 8 is on “Religions at the service of fraternity in our world.”Here the author of Fratelli Tutti calls for unity among all religions, which are generally instruments to peace.  The believers of all religions are called to beartisans of peace, “to work together for the common good and the promotion of the poor.”

We all long for a flourishing, fulfilled and happy life that is found “in truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love” (FT 55). The global society needs changea change of heart, of attitudes and lifestyle. We all – sisters and brothers – are part of the solution, and each one of us has something to contribute “to create a beautiful polyhedral reality in which everyone has a place” (FT 180).  The Argentine Pope invites us all to renew our hope in a united and fraternal world, to dream of a world where we all consider and treat every other as my brother or my sister. Pope Francis closes Fratelli Tutti thus: “May God inspire that dream in each one of us. Amen.” (Photo by Theo_Q from Pixabay)