Papal Letter of Pope Francis Sparks Conversation

By Clare Kelly

On Sept. 5, The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will release his new encyclical on Oct. 4 of this year, reported the Catholic News Agency. The subject-matter of this papal letter was released days later with discussions emerging around the world about the nature of the papal letter.  As the Catholic News Agency says, “The Holy See press office said Sept. 16 that the encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” on fraternity and social friendship, would be issued at noon Rome time on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.” Earlier this month, The Vatican released information that Pope Francis would sign “the third encyclical of his pontificate during a visit to Assisi on Oct. 3” detailed by the Catholic New Agency. As explained by Andrea Tornielli’s Article, “An Encyclical for all brothers and sisters,” “Fratelli tutti” comes from Saint Francis of Assis, whose name Pope Francis chose upon his election to the pontificate. The title comes from St. Francis’s Admonitions, which, according to the Irish Franciscans of Mission is one of the nine writings St. Francis wrote in his lifetime. 

Tornielli brings to light the debate that’s emerged around the “circular letter” (the meaning of encyclical). St. Francis’s writing addresses the brothers, which brought speculation about Pope Francis’s usage of the word. But, as stated by “America,” The Jesuit Review, the Vatican and editorial clarifies that the encyclical “addresses all his sisters and brothers, all men and women of goodwill who populate the earth: everyone, inclusively, and no way exclusively.” According to America, this editorial, written by Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of Vatican News,  responds to “the discussion and contestation of the title by a number of people in the Anglophone world, and especially in the United States, where the title “Fratelli tutti” was perceived as referring only to men, with some decrying it as misogynist.” Tornielli emphasizes that the Pope has no intention of changing the title, but that the title has no intentions of excluding women. 

Andrea Tornielli says Pope Francis, “chose the words of the Saint of Assisi to initiate a reflection on something he cares about very deeply: namely, fraternity and social friendship.” Tornielli explains that the subtitles, fraternity and social friendship, show that there’s a “necessary affection established between people even if it does not close blood relatives. The relationship must be expressed through kind deeds, forms of assistance, works of justice and generous action in times of need—a disinterested affection towards other human beings, regardless of any difference or affiliation.” 

According to the National Catholic Agency, Pope Francis has focused much attention to the theme of human fraternity. In recent years, “the pope signed, ‘A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ during a trip to Abu Dhabi in Feb. 2019,” and “Pope Francis’ message for his first World Day of Peace as pope in 2014 was ‘Fraternity, foundation and pathway for peace.’” 

Pope Francis plans to hold Mass at St. Francis’s tomb in Assisi on October 3 and sign the encyclical letter.

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