A cardinal has defended the Pope against charges that his new encyclical Fratelli tutti is “communist”, insisting that Francis “doesn’t change so much as a comma” of Catholic social doctrine.

– An invitation to the Pope’s critics

Cardinal Miguel Ayuso told Argentina’s La Nación newspaper October 5 that he knows “directly from Pope Francis” himself “that there can be resistance, opposition, criticism” to this pontificate and its major teaching documents, of which Fratelli tuttireleased on Sunday – forms the latest chapter.

“But what I see is that what Pope Francis has been proposing to the world since the beginning of his pontificate is to refresh the Church and offer the world all the principles contained in the Church’s social doctrine. And he does not change so much as a comma in all that”, explained Ayuso, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The cardinal continued: “I would invite those who oppose Pope Francis to take into their hands any compendium of the Church’s social doctrine and there they will see the theme of equality and so many other points” taken up in Fratelli tutti, which has attracted criticism for its harshly-worded censures of the free market, which the Pope labels a delusory “dogma of neoliberal faith”.

“There are people who are a little uncomfortable, a little upset and who ask themselves ‘but why is he doing doing all this?’ But in fact it is a mission of the Church to promote social doctrine, seeking this equality, this brotherhood and fraternity” that forms the cornerstone of Fratelli tutti, Ayuso pointed out.

– “It is not fair to accuse the Holy Father of being someone who invents things or takes refuge in various ideologies”

Speaking to La Nación, Ayuso admitted that although this Pope might have a “more direct” way of naming certain realities than his predecessors did, he nonetheless names places “where work must be done”.

The cardinal also pointed out that although Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’ also came under fire for being too “ecological” or “green”, that text “in its substance is nothing other than another encyclical that seeks to promote the social doctrine of the Church”.

“It is not fair to accuse the Holy Father of being someone who invents things or takes refuge in various ideologies”, Ayuso denounced.

He insisted that “what the Pope does is simply to live and try to apply today in the world in which we live the most important principles of the Church’s social doctrine”.

A body of teachings that encourages all “to live together as one human family as the brothers and sisters that we are, promoting social friendship for the good of all, the common good, not the benefit of a few”, the cardinal explained.

– Concerns in encyclical “don’t stem from the pandemic alone”

Cardinal Ayuso also spoke to Fratelli tutti in another interview with the SIR news agency October 6 and explained what prompted the Pope to write an encyclical on fraternity and social friendship.

“It is no secret that the Holy Father is deeply concerned about the fate of the human family”, the cardinal pointed out, adding that the Pope’s worries about the state of the world today “are manifold… and they don’t stem from the current pandemic alone”.

“Since his election, Pope Francis [has] relentlessly denounced the many injustices that afflict our world: the disparity between rich and poor, the exploitation of the human person, indifference, the throwaway culture and the grave environmental risks we are facing”, Ayuso explained.

The cardinal summed up the message of Fratelli tutti in the following manner:

“The global crisis we are facing today requires us to overcome prejudices, delays and difficulties. While not renouncing our own identity in any way, and far from any concession to idle irenicism, with strength and courage we must reaffirm the need for human fraternity and social friendship as necessary conditions for achieving the peace the entire world yearns for”.

Novena’s full coverage of the release of Fratelli tutti:

Liberation theologian Boff, on “landmark” Fratelli tutti: “The Pope has done his part. It is up to us not to let the dream be just a dream”

Pax Christi welcomes Pope’s condemnation of war in Fratelli tutti: “It goes further than any papal encyclical in history”

Irish Primate praises “timely and provocative” Fratelli tutti: “A must read for everybody

German, Austrian bishops welcome Pope’Fratelli tutti as “urgent appeal for worldwide solidarity and international cooperation”

Pope’s Fratelli tutti hailed as an “appeal to concord”, “oxygen” for dialogue and a “wellspring for a fatigued world”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.