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Tuesday, 17 May 2022 11:05

Fratelli Tutti

Fratelli Tutti blog

Pope Francis wrote an Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti – meaning Brothers (and Sisters) all – during the thick of COVID. This was a time where for many of us, we experienced in an unprecedented way, the pains of isolation and loneliness. A time where we came to the realisation that we really cannot do this life on our own. We need connection. We need community.

Whether we know it or not, we all belong to one or more communities. We belong to neighbourhood communities, school or work communities, church communities, cultural communities, social groups – the list goes on! And we’ll exist in each of these communities in different ways. For example, you might be closer to those in your church community than you are to those in your neighbourhood. It’s quite likely that many of us don’t really know our neighbours at all.

And if we pause for a moment in light of that, already we can see that Pope Francis has called us to a great challenge. For there is no distinction in his call to be brothers and sisters all. He’s not saying brothers and sisters with those you are close to, or those you like, or those who share similar ideas. With simply the title of his encyclical, he is challenging us to live in such a way that we love, see, receive and serve each one in our various communities as our brothers and sisters.

I’m not sure about you but I don’t walk into the Woolies near my house or greet my neighbour in the street and think of them as my family. On a bad day, it can be hard enough to do that with people I know and love, with those that I live with! Yet this is what we are being called to. Pope Francis calls this a culture of encounter – where no one moves through life as an outcast but where there is an acknowledgment of the worth of every person… An acknowledgment of the irreplaceability of each person who makes up the very communities that we exist in. We are called to love them (not only in words but in deeds), laying down our own lives, busyness, agendas, interests, and prejudices, and moving beyond ourselves to encounter them.

This call is not an easy one at all but it is one which Pope Francis says is necessary in our world at the moment – a world devastated by division, hatred and violence; a world that was already so individualistic before COVID but now suffers the additional challenge of remerging from the shadows of isolation and self-preservation.

Now more than ever, the sense of deep community, of belonging, of togetherness with all people is needed. But it doesn’t just happen. Pope Francis writes that we must seek out and cultivate the seeds of community. Jesus tells us that this work is up to us and is an inherent part of our identity as his disciples. In John 13:35, he tells us that the love we have for one another will be how the world recognises us. We are the ones called to witness to and usher into our communities the ‘fullness of life’ which Jesus came to bring us; a fullness which is only possible in the gift of ourselves to others, in deep communion with God and one another.

And if we’re honest, this is a truth that I believe we can all be guilty of ‘getting’ – even ‘getting tired of’. We’ve heard this call before, but I think Pope Francis knows – as we do – that we can struggle to let this truth permeate our hearts and change our actions. How is the Lord calling you to seek out and cultivate community with those around you? It’s a huge call and not always an easy one but together, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can build the culture of encounter, the very culture of Heaven, with those around us.

Stephanie Sullivan