In his new encyclical Fratelli tutti, released Sunday, Pope Francis has set out his vision for a new world order post-COVID-19 beyond nationalism and capitalism.

– A “dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace”

The Pope’s new encyclical consists of eight chapters:

  1. Dark clouds over a closed world
  2. A stranger on the road
  3. Envisaging and engendering an open world
  4. A heart open to the whole world
  5. A better kind of politics
  6. Dialogue and friendship in society
  7. Paths of renewed encounter
  8. Religions at the service of fraternity in our world,

complemented by a ‘Prayer to the Creator’ that God inspire in Catholics a “dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace”, and by an ‘Ecumenical Christian Prayer’ “that we may discover anew that all are important and all are necessary, different faces of the one humanity that God so loves”.

– “New paths of hope”

In his new text, Francis considers “certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity”.

Those trends analysed by the Pope include “myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism”, the phenomenon of an “increasingly massified world that promotes individual interests and weakens the communitarian dimension of life”, “cultural colonization”, the degeneration of politics into “slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others”, the manipulations of “economic powers that demand quick profits” and what he has repeatedly decried as the excesses of our “throwaway culture”.

All of those phenomena the Pope condenses into the diagnosis that while the world “races ahead” in apparent progress, it lacks a “shared roadmap”.

A lack of a common plan for humanity, he says, that has only been exacerbated by the “pain, uncertainty and fear” of the coronavirus pandemic – a tragedy that has made it “all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence”.

Despite the “dark clouds” over our world today, “which may not be ignored”, the Pope points up in his encyclical “new paths of hope” for a post-COVID world, convinced as he is of the fact that “God continues to sow abundant seeds of goodness in our human family”.

– An invitation to a “love capable of transcending borders”

 After a reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan which he uses to show “how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good”, the Pope calls on Christians and all people of good will to “take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies”.

To that end, Francis invites Christians and all people of good will to cultivate “social friendship” – which he defines as “love capable of transcending borders” – and to practice human fraternity, which he links to the values of “freedom and equality”, “dialogue” and “reciprocity and mutual enrichment”.

“Social friendship and universal fraternity necessarily call for an acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere”, the Pope proclaims.

But how can we put into practice that friendship and fraternity that promotes the equal dignity of all? Francis begins by appealing on the individual level to the virtue of “solidarity”, which as he recalls “finds concrete expression in service”.

He then extends that principle into notions of the “social role of property” and the “common destination of the earth’s goods”.

“The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods”, the Pope stresses, explaining that that perennial Catholic idea “has concrete consequences that ought to be reflected in the workings of society”.

Explaining that he is thinking of a “different way of understanding relations and exchanges between countries”, or even a “new network of international relations”, the Pope argues that “if every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbour was born in my country or elsewhere”.

“My own country also shares responsibility for his or her development”, the Pope stresses, proposing that wealthier States exercise that responsibility for the development of poorer ones by offering a “generous welcome to those in urgent need”, working “to improve living conditions” in two-thirds countries and “refusing to exploit those countries or to drain them of natural resources, backing corrupt systems that hinder the dignified development of their peoples”, among other strategies.

– A call for “a better kind of politics”

Francis proceeds then in his new encyclical to explaining more ways of giving “concrete embodiment” to his conviction “that all human beings are brothers and sisters”.

On the subject of borders, for example, the Pope calls for “a form of global governance with regard to movements of migration”. With regard to multilateralism, he stresses the need for “a global juridical, political and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity”.

But Francis warns that “the development of a global community of fraternity based on the practice of social friendship on the part of peoples and nations calls for a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good”. “Sadly, politics today often takes forms that hinder progress towards a different world”, he laments.

“Politics is something more noble than posturing, marketing and media spin”, the pontiff pleads, insisting that for politicians the pressing questions must not be: “How many people endorsed me?”, “How many voted for me?” or “How many had a positive image of me?”, but instead “How much love did I put into my work?” or “What did I do for the progress of our people?”.

“Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground: all these things are summed up in the one word ‘dialogue'”, Francis explains, highlighting that “if we want to encounter and help one another, we have to dialogue”.

The Pope stresses that dialogue is distinguished from “ephemeral consensus” by its grounding in “clear thinking, rational arguments, a variety of perspectives and the contribution of different fields of knowledge and points of view”.

By grounding itself in certain “fundamental truths” and “enduring values” that always serve the “good functioning of society”, dialogue leads to a “culture of encounter capable of transcending our differences and divisions”, the Pope insists.

On top of dialogue and encounter, Francis encourages a new development of the virtue of kindness – a value which he says “transforms lifestyles, relationships and the ways ideas are discussed and compared”.

“Kindness facilitates the quest for consensus; it opens new paths where hostility and conflict would burn all bridges”, the Pope emphasises.

– Peace depends on “a renewed encounter with the most impoverished and vulnerable sectors of society”

Along with friendship, fraternity, a renewed politics, dialogue, encounter and kindness, another virtue the Pope prescribes for our world today is that of peace.

“The path to peace does not mean making society blandly uniform, but getting people to work together, side-by-side, in pursuing goals that benefit everyone”, the pontiff explains, clarifying too that peace does not only mean rapprochement between former enemies but also “a renewed encounter with the most impoverished and vulnerable sectors of society”.

“Those who work for tranquil social coexistence should never forget that inequality and lack of integral human development make peace impossible”, the Pope stresses, encouraging the world to “begin anew” after the coronavirus “from the least of our brothers and sisters”.

Francis devotes a section of his encyclical to decrying two “false answers” the world gives that seem to promise peace but instead “introduce new elements of destruction in the fabric of national and global society”, namely, war and the death penalty.

“Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil”, the Pope deplores, adding that “it is impossible to imagine that states today have no other means than capital punishment to protect the lives of other people from the unjust aggressor”.

Francis closes his new encyclical with a special plea to believers of the different religions of the world to contribute from their faith convictions to building up friendship and fraternity.

“We believers are challenged to return to our sources, in order to concentrate on what is essential: worship of God and love for our neighbour, lest some of our teachings, taken out of context, end up feeding forms of contempt, hatred, xenophobia or negation of others”, the Pope concludes, stressing that violence “has no basis in our fundamental religious convictions, but only in their distortion”.

To read the Pope’s new encyclical, follow this link to the Vatican website

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