By Archbishop Philip Tartaglia
At 12 noon Rome time on Sunday the Holy Father Francis published his much-anticipated encyclical, Fratelli Tutti.
A papal encyclical is the highest form of Papal teaching and this is only the third the present Pope has published since his elevation to the Papacy.
The letter [referred to by Canon Gerry Conroy in his Thought for the Day column in The Democrat earlier this week] is a powerful call to re-model society in the post-Covid world both at political and personal level.
In it the Holy Father issues a strong condemnation of populist political leaders who “are able to exploit politically a people’s culture, under whatever ideological banner, for their own personal advantage or continuing grip on power.”
“They seek popularity by appealing to the basest and most selfish inclinations of certain sectors of the population,” states the pontiff.
“This becomes all the more serious when, whether in cruder or more subtle forms, it leads to the usurping of institutions and laws.”
In the new encyclical the Pope effectively eliminates the concept of a modern day “just war”; repeats that the Church condemns the death penalty and must work for its abolition and calls for a new approach to immigration, based on a greater appreciation of the dignity of the human person.
The Pope begs us to change our lifestyle in the light of the Covid pandemic: “Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation …
“If only this may prove not to be just another tragedy of history from which we learned nothing…
If only we might keep in mind all those elderly persons who died for lack of respirators, partly as a result of the dismantling, year after year, of healthcare systems…
“If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another…
“God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us,’ but only ‘us.’ “
The Pope asks us to shun “culture wars” on social media: “We should also recognise that destructive forms of fanaticism are at times found among religious believers, including Christians; they too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication.
He points out: “Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned.”
Pope Francis appeals for a rediscovery of the virtue of kindness: “Kindness frees us from the cruelty that at times infects human relationships, from the anxiety that prevents us from thinking of others, from the frantic flurry of activity that forgets that others also have a right to be happy.
He adds: “Often nowadays we find neither the time nor the energy to stop and be kind to others, to say ‘excuse me’, ‘pardon me’, ‘thank you’. Yet every now and then, miraculously, a kind person appears and is willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference. If we make a daily effort to do exactly this, we can create a healthy social atmosphere in which misunderstandings can be overcome and conflict forestalled. Kindness ought to be cultivated; it is no superficial bourgeois virtue…”
The full text of the encyclical is at http://www.vatican.va/…/papa-francesco_20201003…
It is worth reading, calmly and reflectively, applying its lessons to our individual circumstances and lifestyle choices.