By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
“Fraternity is not a trend or a fashion…but the result of concrete acts”. Thus reflected Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin, during the presentation of Pope Francis’s new encyclical Fratelli tutti on Sunday morning. He said the new Encyclical “outlines a culture of fraternity to be applied in international relations”.
If this culture is so implemented, the Cardinal said it will serve as a reminder of the “the integration between countries, the primacy of rules over force, economic development and cooperation and, above all, the use of dialogue, seen not as an anaesthetic or an occasional ‘band-aid’, but as a weapon with a destructive potential far superior to any other armament”.
It is dialogue, the Cardinal continued, that “destroys the barriers in the heart and mind, opens up spaces for forgiveness, and promotes reconciliation”. It’s absence is what allows “international relations to degenerate or rely on the heavy hand of power, allowing opposition and force to prevail”. Dialogue, he said, does not usually make the headlines. Rather, as Fratelli tutti notes, it “quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine” (Par 198).
“Dialogue is a vision that progresses and endures over time. Dialogue requires patience and edges close to martyrdom. This is why the Encyclical refers to dialogue as an instrument of fraternity, which makes those who dialogue different from those ‘people holding important social positions yet lacking in real concern for the common good, who do not hold in their hearts the common good’ ” (Par, 63).
Fraternity follows an upward trajectory, Cardinal Parolin explained. It begins with the individual, but is not the same thing as “individual maturity, reserved exclusively for those who share the same path”.
“According the Encyclical, the objective is an ascending path driven by that healthy subsidiarity which starts from the individual and expands to encompass the family, then social and state dimensions, all the way to the international community.”
If this path is undertaken, fraternity “can contribute to the renewal of principles guiding international life”, the Cardinal noted. The negative aspects of globalization are present, and the pandemic has exposed them ever more clearly. Fundamentally, the pandemic has shown what is lacking: “that there is an inability to act all together. Although we are hyper-connected, there is a fragmentation which makes it more difficult to solve problems affecting us all” (Par 7).
There is an “obvious contradiction between the common good” and national interests. This means "the multitude of the abandoned remain at the mercy of the possible good will of some", the Cardinal said, citing the Encyclical (Par 165). Fraternity kicks in an opposing force:
“It introduces the idea of general interests, those capable of forming a true solidarity and of changing not only the structure of the international Community but also the dynamics of relationships within it”.
With the adoption of this vision, “the sovereignty and independence of each State cease to be absolutes” and are subject to "the sovereignty of law, knowing that justice is a prerequisite for achieving the ideal of universal brotherhood" (Par, 173).
Pope Francis’s view of fraternity is the culture that allows the “legitimately expressed common will” to be respected. Thus, fraternity facilitates the resolution of conflicts through diplomacy and negotiation through multilateral organism. Both the common good and the weakest nations would therefore be protected (see Par, 174) because fraternity “replaces the centralization of powers with a collegial function”, the Cardinal said.
Cardinal Parolin then focused on how this fraternal culture can gradually replace paradigms “that no longer have the capacity to grapple with the challenges and needs that the international Community meets on its current journey”. Quoting the new Encyclical, the Cardinal said change is a process “crafted above all by peoples; each individual can act as an effective leaven by the way he or she lives each day. Great changes are not produced behind desks or in offices" (Par, 231)
He also noted that saying we are brothers and sisters or making “social friendship” a personal style of life is not enough. True conversion “revolves around the category of fraternal love, which beyond all belonging, even identity, is capable of concretely realizing itself in the one ‘who has become a neighbour’ (Par, 81)”. Thus the model presented to us in the Encylical, the Good Samaritan.
Cardinal Parolin concluded his presentation saying, “fraternity proposes the transformation of international life from mere co-existence…to a dimension based on that common sense of ‘humanity’ “. The human family itself is fraternity’s “protagonist”, he said. Yet, its vision is “far removed from universalism or abstract sharing, as from certain degenerations of globalization”.
“Through the culture of fraternity, Pope Francis calls each and every one to love the other people, the other nation, as one’s own, and thus to build relationships, rules and institutions, while abandoning the illusions of power, isolation, closed visions, selfish and partisan actions—because ‘the simple sum of individual interests is not capable of generating a better world for all humanity’ (Par, 105).