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Fratelli Tutti. Practical Applications

 

I’ve been writing about Fratelli Tutti. This is the recent encyclical by Pope Francis. It comprises eight chapters roughly covering four topics: Assessment, Scripture, Conversation, and Action. This week I would like to focus on Chapter 5: A Better Type of Politics. , I’m examining paragraphs 190-191, “A Love That Integrates and Unites.”

Pope Francis’ recent visit to Iraq mesmerized the world. The images, who he met, and what was discussed, we’re stunning. The Holy Father’s talks might seem familiar. Much of what he espoused is in Fratelli Tutti, especially paragraphs 186 to 192.

Paragraphs 190 and 191 especially struck me. Francis writes,

 

Political charity is also expressed in a spirit of openness to everyone. Government leaders should be the first to make sacrifices that foster encounter and seek convergence on at least some issues.

At a time when various forms of fundamentalist intolerance are damaging relationships between individuals, groups, and peoples, let us be committed to living and teaching the value of respect for others. Even as forms of fanaticism, closed-mindedness, and social and cultural fragmentation proliferate, a good politician will take the first step and insist that different voices be heard.

I recently watched a movie on Netflix called Sergio. It is a documentary about Sergio DeMello. DeMello was a successful arbitrator and negotiator for the United Nations. For several years, he was able to bring about peace in some of the most war-torn areas in the world. He helped move Cambodia to a more inclusive, democratic form of government. This occurred after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. In East Timor (an island in Indonesia) deMello acted as an interim administrator for two years. He piloted a peaceful transition to a democratic form of government. East Timor had been ravaged by sectarian violence for years.
DeMello‘s success in East Timor eventually led to his untimely and unfortunate death. He was killed by a suicide bomb attack in Iraq. Islamic fanatics said that de Mello had participated in the unlawful removal of territory from the Islamic Caliphate.

Why was Sergio so successful in Cambodia and East Timor? He was willing to enter into dialogue and conversation with people who were considered – by others – terrorists, murderers, and agents of genocide. Sergio said that he saw them as people. Amid significant differences in religion, ideology, and government, he wanted to speak with them. He wanted to hear what they had to say. He talked about the dignity of each human being and that each person should at least be heard.

In this regard, Sergio lived the ideals that Pope Francis outlines in Fratelli Tutti. DeMello pre-figured the approach to intractable situations that Pope Francis tried to address in his recent visit to Iraq.

There are lessons here. Here at home, we are inundated with voices complaining about similar intractable situations. We see them as currently characteristic of American politics. We seem them in citiesd and communities. We hear about them in universities. There have been calls about voices trying to unite people on various sides of important issues. First, Francis and Fratelli Tutti give us a philosophical, theological, and anthropological foundation. This forms a basis on which difficult conversations can be held. Third, Francis provides a blueprint on how this might be accomplished. Along with Sergio DeMello, Pope Francis has provided a first-hand, in-person example on how to accomplish that difficult task.

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