A Comment on “Fratelli tutti” 13-14 (Giuseppe Tognon)


The Encyclical Fratelli tutti is rich in suggestions. The text works on a “rhizomatic” basis, that corresponds to its inspiring principles, i.e. fraternity and social friendship. The ultimate goal of these principles is extending to all human beings the grace of a bond that projects the light of Salvation on human history. Pope Francis tells us that it’s only by going beyond genos and blood ties that we will be able to open doors to the Christian revolution. Doors will also open up to a form of paternity and maternity that engages all men of good will in the quest for justice and in the safeguard of creation. Blood and cultural ties are just the tools through which individuals and groups contribute to the species survival. Nonetheless, they do not exhaust the human “generating power” and, above all, they can’t be put forward as the bedrock of the Church, a spiritual community that lives inside history, precisely to guide it and also to witness that history itself will be ultimately overpassed.


Nevertheless, fraternity can be the new world frontier only if we start from the awareness that humanity is going through some hard times and if we are able to compare present and past. It is clear that every age had their difficulties. But the current period is characterized exactly by the refusal to look at models from the past, as it was always done before, for thousands of years. Our age rejects what a great Catholic historian, Henri-Irenée Marrou, called the “sadness” of the job of the historian, facing all the time human weaknesses and miseries. Globalization has masked identities that close off to defend what they are without understanding how and why they are that way. It makes many peoples captive of dictators and adventurers. It generates some absurd forms of inequality and injustice.


Against a naive use of the idea of fraternity, typical of simplistic revolutionary ideologies; and against an unscrupulous, phony use of democracy, the fraternity the Encyclical puts forth is founded on the historical consciousness that, not only religions, but also humanity itself, are at risk. Besides, those who seek fraternity are exactly the people who are not “naturally” siblings and know they are not. So, fraternity is a civil virtue that requires maturity and awareness, especially from those who have the possibility to judge and act without depending on despair. The practice of fraternity is a paramount challenge for the rich ones and the wise ones. A strong historical consciousness of personal and collective experience is the indispensable premise of a staunch practice of fraternity. Historical knowledge of the past teaches us that fraternity is always difficult, all the more so if we want to extend it to humankind. But historical consciousness suggests to us that the past will not influence the future, unless we allow it to last. Past and future are projections of men on time. They exist because they are filled with meanings that men share. Historians document the past and build up historical knowledge, but historical knowledge rises when people head to the future in light of a faith.



Originally published on Educa. International Catholic Journal of Education. Read here the rest of this article.