09 October 2020
Caring for every wounded man, woman, child, and elderly person
A new “social encyclical” has the goal of promoting a world-wide aspiration towards fraternity and social friendship based on a common belonging to the human family, and thus on recognizing ourselves as all being brothers and sisters.
Fratelli tutti, which was inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February 2019, highlights how we are all “in the same boat” and that nobody is saved on his or her own.
The Holy Father focuses his reflections on those portions of humanity which would, by some standards, appear to be able to be “readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, ‘persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’—like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed’—like the elderly.’” (18)
This “throw-away culture” is global, and yet hits our families and communities very close to home: “A decline in the birthrate, which leads to the aging of the population, together with the relegation of the elderly to a sad and lonely existence, is a subtle way of stating that it is all about us, that our individual concerns are the only thing that matters. In this way, ‘what is thrown away are not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves.’” The Pope continues: “We fail to realize that, by isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without the closeness and concern of family members, we disfigure and impoverish the family itself. We also end up depriving young people of a necessary connection to their roots and a wisdom that the young cannot achieve on their own.” (19)
Pope Francis invites us to concern ourselves with: “the wounded, those of our own people and all the peoples of the earth. Let us care for the needs of every man and woman, young and old, with the same fraternal spirit of care and closeness that marked the Good Samaritan.” (79)
Yet again, Pope Francis calls to mind those “hidden exiles” who are “treated as foreign bodies in society. Many persons with disabilities ‘feel that they exist without belonging and without participating.’ Much still prevents them from being fully enfranchised. Our concern,” writes the Pope, “should be not only to care for them but to ensure their “active participation in the civil and ecclesial community.” (98)
The Pope goes on to directly reference the family, which is “called to a primary and vital mission of education. Families are the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on. They are also the privileged milieu for transmitting the faith, beginning with those first simple gestures of devotion which mothers teach their children.” (114)
“In a family,” continues the Holy Father, “parents, grandparents and children all feel at home; no one is excluded. […] In families, everyone contributes to the common purpose; everyone works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality but encouraging and supporting it. They may quarrel, but there is something that does not change: the family bond. Family disputes are always resolved afterwards. The joys and sorrows of each of its members are felt by all. That is what it means to be a family! If only we could view our political opponents or neighbors in the same way that we view our children or our spouse, mother or father! How good would this be!” (230)
Finally, as laypeople engaged within our societies, we are offered “a new opportunity, a new possibility. […] We have the space we need for co-responsibility in creating and putting into place new processes and changes. Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies. Today we have a great opportunity to express our innate sense of fraternity, to be Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment. Like the chance traveler in the parable, we need only have a pure and simple desire to be a people, a community, constant and tireless in the effort to include, integrate and lift up the fallen. […] For our part, let us foster what is good and place ourselves at its service.” (77)