Pope Francis’ beautiful encyclical was promulgated last week. He addresses it to his sisters and brothers throughout the world, reminding us we are the human family of this generation, have received a wonderful world from God, inherited a history of blessings and horrors from the past, and should be aware of everyone’s needs, passing on to the generations to come a better history than we received.
Chapter One is a plea for true democracy, freedom, justice – the Common Good. Pope Francis points to the cruelty of poverty, racism, lack of worthwhile work, the greed of corporations and nations and is overwhelmed by the abuses of slavery, the trafficking especially of women and children, political and organised crime, and the fears and loneliness of so many.
Chapter Two introduces the Good Samaritan – you, me, everyone – reaching out to our neighbours near and far in love – practical, caring, always according to our mutual dignity and no one to be excluded.
Chapter Three begs us to be open to the world, loving so that “universal fulfilment” (what a phrase!) of human rights, education, freedom, may be brought about by our longing to see all lives happy and free.
Chapter Four guides us to love and appreciate, from hearts open to the whole world, the wounded, persecuted, migrants, refugees everywhere, and to seek through international collaboration justice for every human being: United Nations, united peoples, strangers and enemies no more – ideals to long for and work towards.
Chapter Five concentrates on the purpose of politics to find solutions, national and international. The market place is not the centre of life but is important in bringing a sense of community in which we serve each other and not simply make profit from each other. The narrowness of populism “my sort of government only” is not good enough to bring justice for all: a family of nations, working for the common good, protecting human rights, ridding our world of poverty, promoting just laws in every society – these are the ideals for very national and international enterprise and governance.
Chapter Six concerns dialogue and friendship in society, nations learning from each other, including the lesser-known and unrecognised peoples in terms of worldly importance. We are all important, no one is useless and no one is expendable. First, Second, Third worlds, developed and developing, are of the past: we are one.
Chapter Seven completes and summarises the Letter. We are able to renew our world, ourselves and our neighbours. We must recognise our responsibilities for each other and for the generations who will inherit the earth. God’s world is for us to tend, to make more beautiful, to produce crops of civilisations, worthy to be called the “People of God” by those who believe, or the “Human Family” by those who cannot (yet) see God.
The Encyclical ends with an appeal for the common good, human development, dialogue, co-operation and the ideal of becoming more the human family.
This beautiful message is for the whole world, but who will hear it, who will read it? Will it touch only the few and disappear inside its glossy cover? We know the probable answer.
God bless our world.
(11th October 2020)