Archbishop Justin Welby: “Fratelli Tutti is a truly ecumenical document”

Commentary on Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In this Encyclical, Pope Francis sets out a clear, exciting and ambitious vision of the role of human friendship and solidarity as the basis for a better future world order.

Throughout this work, he interweaves the themes of the individual and the social, and stresses their necessary interdependence, rejecting the extremes both of individualism and of social collectivism as contrary to the true dignity and rights of all human beings. His is a true and clearly Christian voice of radical moderation, neither captured by the individualism of the culture nor a prisoner of the dreams of social collectivism.

He sets out a vision of healthy human, societal and international relationships based on concern for the other, listening, sharing and openness to new ideas and experiences, rejecting the increasing tendency for individuals and societies to retreat into bunkers of the familiar and the safe. It is a vision embedded in a deep Christology, reflecting the nature of the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16).

This is a book both thoughtful and joyful. It takes us at times to the worst of human behaviour but it offers us ways to forge a better world. Climate change, charity both personal and national, migration, human trafficking and the dignity of work are all here, along with many other topics of equal significance and urgency. It paints a possible future of a world that is holistic, recognising human dignity and holding it together with divine creation and penetrated throughout by the God whose love is authentically shown in mutual generosity (I John 3:17).

This is a truly ecumenical document, in which Pope Francis cites not only Orthodox Patriarch Bartholemew but also Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He strikingly refers to his fruitful dialogue with Grand Iman Ahmad Al-Tayyeb to emphasise that the thrust of his argument, whilst rooted deeply in the Christian faith, is of universal force. He draws inspiration also from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi.

Whilst written from a profoundly, inspiringly Christian stance, Pope Francis explicitly sets out a vision to which non-believers can subscribe. One would have to be extraordinarily narrow-minded not to pay attention to his clarion call for action for purely sectarian or similar reasons.

This remarkable Pope has done the world another service by bringing together in one text such a wealth of insight into some of the most pressing issues of our time. It is a volume which will repay reading and re-reading. It is my earnest hope that it will be not only read but acted upon by those in power throughout the world.

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