German and Austrian bishops have welcomed the Pope’s new encyclical as an “urgent appeal for worldwide solidarity and international cooperation”.
– “A cry of hope that we tear down walls and strengthen our cohesion”
Fratelli tutti – Francis’ new invitation to “all men and women” to “fraternity and social friendship”, published on Sunday – is a “wake-up call, an exhortation and a cry of hope”, explained German Bishops’ chair Bishop Georg Bätzing.
“A wake-up call that we find each other. An exhortation that we not forget our neighbour. A cry of hope that we tear down walls and strengthen our cohesion”, explained the Bishop of Limburg.
Beginning from a reaffirmation of the dignity of each human being made in the image of God, Francis opposes national isolation and proposes instead a new “ethics of international relations”, Bätzing said. The Pope achieves that project by prioritising fraternity, a “love that transcends all political and spatial boundaries”, the bishop stressed.
Bätzing said that he found it impressive that Pope Francis never loses his hope despite offering in Fratelli tutti an “analysis of the world that is sometimes formulated in harsh words”.
Rather than succumbing to fatalism, the Pope “underscores the need for a return to a ‘culture of encounter’ and to genuine dialogues, away from the ‘parallel monologues’ that are often taking place at present”, Bätzing explained.
Those “genuine and sincere dialogues” that the Pope recommends are exactly what the German Church is presently engaged in, not only in social and political debates but also in the context of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process, Bätzing stressed.
– The right text at the right time
For his part, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, hailed Fratelli tutti as a highly relevant and important text that comes “at the right time”.
With his new encyclical, the Pope has brought “the contribution of the Church, indeed of all religions, to the solution of the current crises that are shaking our world”, Marx explained, situating Francis’ “new dream of fraternity and social friendship” firmly within the great tradition of the social encyclicals of earlier popes.
Marx said that in Fratelli tutti he appreciated above all the fact that the Pope does not stop only at the vision, but rather takes an explicit stand on current political, social and economic issues, including migration, ecology, digitality and multilateralism.
Francis also clearly distinguishes his teaching from the destructive temptations to nationalism, populism and racism and also categorically rejects war and the death penalty, the cardinal pointed out.
Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse, meanwhile, welcomed the Pope’s conviction in Fratelli tutti that there are no “others”, but only one “we”, and added that Francis aims with his new text to “inspire us to embrace and realise the worldwide longing for brotherhood, in keeping with the title, fratelli tutti: we are all brothers and sisters”.
Bishop of Münster Felix Genn, in the meantime, cheered Fratelli tutti as an impressive reminder of the need for solidarity and justice in today’s world.
Francis’ new encyclical makes clear that “nationalism, unlimited consumption, unlimited economic liberalism, a throw-away society, war, nuclear weapons, the death penalty, a policy of isolation from migrants and populism must be abolished”, Bishop Genn declared.
– “Deeply biblical, deeply Christian and medicine for a sick world”
Immediate praise for Fratelli tutti was also forthcoming from Austria, where Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn observed that the document not only stands in profound continuity with the Church’s teaching but also renews the “revolutionary teaching of one human family”.
“The dream of fraternity and social friendship presented by Francis is deeply biblical, deeply Christian and medicine for a sick world”, Schönborn highlighted.
The cardinal added that with his new encyclical, the Pope has “officially incorporate[d] into Catholic social teaching” the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together that he signed with the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque and university in Egypt, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi in February 2019.
Thanking the Pope for bluntly denouncing the “shadows” in the world today, Austrian theologian Paul Zulehner added for his part that Francis in his new text not only shows the world a new “path of hope” and solidarity but also proposes concrete landmarks along that way, such as the opening of humanitarian corridors for refugees and easier access to visas for them.
“So it is important for the Pope not only to appeal to the beautiful truth of the unity of all people, but also that this bethe horizon for very concrete action”, Zulehner explained, stressing that Francis in Fratelli tutti warns, for example, that it would be “a contradiction to sing hymns of unity and not to accept children from Moria”.