“Fratelli tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship” is destined to be a defining document and body of teaching for the pontificate of Pope Francis. With this powerful encyclical letter, addressed to all people of goodwill, the Holy Father again reminds us why he is considered a preeminent moral teacher — and in an extraordinarily critical and fraught moment in human history.
“Fratelli tutti” represents a synthesis of the social teaching of Pope Francis. The encyclical draws deeply from previous writings, particularly “Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” and his addresses, especially those directed to the international community. His framework is Christian, but his approach is also deliberately ecumenical and interfaith. For example, he draws on his collaboration with the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb (see “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” Abu Dhabi, 2019) and references Jewish sources.
The pope begins by identifying the challenges that result from the fragmentation and division afflicting humanity on personal, national, and international levels. These include violence and the prospect of war and civil unrest, racism, the degradation of the environment, the “discarding” of the poor and vulnerable, the crises prompted by the migration of desperate peoples, economies that benefit privileged groups, and a stridency and coarseness that mark our public discourse and private communications and disable possibilities for real human connection. The title of this first chapter captures the mood: “Dark Clouds over a Closed World.”