“Fratelli Tutti” is an expression by Saint Francis of Assisi and it becomes the title of the third encyclical of Pope Francis who is possessed by the saint. This passage of Nikos Kazantsakis God’s Pauper is prophetic:
“You came again. The responsibility of the church is on my head. Don’t disturb me.”
‘Holy Father, I had a dream, I saw, the church of the Churches, The Lateran Basilica. As I was looking its pinnacle slants and breaks. I heard a cry, “Francis Help.”
“Dream? Lift up your cowl, let me see you face… When you had the dream?”
“… When the dream left you. It came seeking me. I saw what you saw. The Church falls. I saw what you did not see. The wretched monk who supports the Church, is it not you?”
“Who am I to save the Church? I and my brothers can cry out that “we are perishing ….”
This encyclical has two historical contexts. The first is the historical proclamation on human fraternity for world peace at Abu Dhabi (4 February 2019) made by Pope Francis with Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb of Egypt, who is the spiritual head of 1.5 billion people who form 80% of world’s Muslims. The second is the two visits of Francis to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil in Egypt during the Second Crusade (1147–1150) when Edessa fell in 1144 to the forces of Zengi. Pope Eugene III had issued a bull and commissioned French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux to preach the Second Crusade. Saint Francis crossed the line of control twice and was caught by the Islamic soldiers. The first time Francis wanted to be martyred and the second time he wanted to preach to the Sultan. On both occasions his meeting with the Sultan turned out to be friendly. History presented here two options in interrelations between religions, to go with St Bernard or with St Francis – the way of the crusade or the way of peace and brotherly co-existence and collaboration. The way of Pope Francis is clearly enunciated in Fratelli Tutti. The key message of the pastoral letter addressed all men and women of good will is simple: “Everything Is Connected.” St Francis categorically expressed it in his canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Once in a philosophy class the teacher asked this strange question: “Where do your lungs start?” The answer expected was philosophical. All kept quite. The teacher himself gave the answer: “Where air starts.” The world is suffering from a lung problem, which is concerned not with the lungs but with the plague affected air. The plague is our feeling that we are free from the other. The other has become our enemy. We have abandoned relationships; we pretend to be disconnected with the other. We have been travelling in the path of Saint Bernard, the echoes of whose crusade preaching is adding impetus to a culture of hate spite and rivalry prevalent in the world. We are glaring at the end of the world, because the world as a cultural home created with values that made us transcend our animal nature is coming to an end. We are returning to our animal selves. Aldous Huxley cries out: “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” Simone Weil (1909-1943), who was on the verge of being converted to Catholicism retracted at the last moment writing, “There were some saints who approved of the Crusades or the Inquisition. I cannot help thinking that they were in the wrong. I cannot go against the light of conscience… What frightens me is the Church as an a social structure… If this asocial structure did them harm, what harm would it not do me, who am particularly susceptible to social influences and who am almost infinitely more feeble than they were? Nothing ever said or written goes so far as the devil’s.” (Waiting For God).
The encyclical, in 8 chapters and 287 paragraphs, is ground breaking. The right to private property is only secondary. There is no just war. There can be no death penalty. The dogma of neoliberal faith does not solve our economic and social problems. All religions are God’s works. It emphasises: “We cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast. Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering. That is the meaning of dignity.” (No.68)