By Devin Watkins
“The heart of the Gospel is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, which is the person of Jesus—Emmanuel and God with us. In Him, in fact, God definitively manifests His project of love for humanity, establishing His lordship over creatures and inserting into human history the seed of divine life, which transforms it from within.”
Pope Francis opened his preface for “Fraternity: Sign of the Times”, a book written by Cardinal Michael Czerny and Fr. Christian Barone, with those words.
The book, published in Italian by the Vatican Publishing House, will be presented at the Holy See Press Office on Thursday.
Fraternity and God’s Kingdom
In his preface, the Pope explained how the concept of fraternity is grounded in the Kingdom of God.
“The Kingdom of God is certainly not identifiable, or to be confused, with some sort of earthly or political manifestation,” he wrote. “However, neither should it be identified with a purely interior, personal, and spiritual reality, or as a promise only for the afterlife.”
Pope Francis said Christian faith “lives with” this fascinating paradox, in the words of the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac.
The Kingdom of God, he added, is both here and now, while remaining a promise and a cry sent out by Creation for her full liberation.
Implanted in our modern world
Christians, said the Pope, are called to help implant the Kingdom of God on earth, a social aspect of the Christian faith that we must never forget, he added.
“Each of us can contribute to realizing the work of the Kingdom of God in the world,” he said, “by opening spaces of salvation and liberation, planting hope, defying the soul-killing logic of egoism with evangelical fraternity, and working to show tenderness and solidarity toward our neighbor, especially the poorest.”
The Kingdom of God, said Pope Francis, will be manifested in our world in the measure in which society is filled with “fraternity, justice, peace, and dignity for all.”
“In this sense,” he wrote, “care for our Mother Earth and efforts to build a society based on solidarity, in which we are ‘all brothers and sisters’, lie not outside the purview of faith, but are its concrete manifestation.”
Social teaching rooted in God’s love
Pope Francis went on to say that the Social Doctrine of the Church is not a mere social aspect of Christian faith, but is deeply rooted in theology—in “God’s love for humanity and His plan of love and fraternity”.
The Pope added that Cardinal Czerny’s and Fr. Barone’s book seeks to introduce his encyclical Fratelli tutti, while exploring the link between the Second Vatican Council and the Church’s social doctrine.
He said fraternity is one of the “signs of the times which Vatican II bring to light” and is something of which our world is in great need.
Church at service of humanity
His encyclical, said Pope Francis, sought to illuminate the challenges of our modern world with the “breath” of Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World.
“Today, as we proceed along the path traced out by the Council Fathers,” he wrote, “we realize that we are in need not only of a Church in the modern world and in dialogue with it, but above all a Church which is at the service of humanity, caring for Creation, and proclaiming and manifesting a new universal fraternity, in which human relationships are healed of selfishness and violence, and are founded on mutual love, welcoming, and solidarity.”