‘Brothers and Sisters All’ – that is one translation of ‘Fratelli Tutti’ – the latest encyclical from Pope Francis, to be launched on October 4th in Assisi, Italy – forever associated with the pope’s ‘name saint’.According to NCR ‘The encyclical is expected to echo many of the themes Francis has been discussing in his general audience talks on Catholic social teaching in light of the pandemic: human fraternity, the equal dignity of all people, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods and the obligation of solidarity. Care for the environment and the virtue of peacemaking also are expected to be part of the encyclical.’
Inevitably, however, careful readers will look for signs that the chosen date – almost exactly one month prior to the US presidential election – is no coincidence. In advocating the building of bridges rather than walls and in going well out of his way to declare solidarity with immigrants and refugees, the pope is seen by many as an ideological opponent of ‘populist nationalism’ – a term that roared back into vogue in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA.
In the wake of Trumpalike successes for ‘our nation first’ figures such as Viktor Orban in Hungary, Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, Jair Bolsanaro in Brazil and the europhobic Boris Johnson in the UK, Pope Francis has warned more than once about the dangers of a “resurgence of nationalistic tendencies” that could undermine the “vocation” of international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union.
This echoes the fears of many other observers that such bodies could suffer the fate of the League of Nations, set up in the wake of the horrors of World War I (1914-18).
In any case, supporters of Pope Francis can expect his US ‘Catholic’ opponents to protest his timing in the intense lead-up to their own most critical general election. We should look out especially for the pope once again to be accused of ‘Marxism’ by reactionary ‘Christians’ who have never read Chapter Five of the Gospel of Matthew and therefore suppose that it was the 19th century academic Karl Marx who invented the ‘preferential option for the poor’. Such people are likely to attack him for ‘globalism’ also – the equivalent of a know-nothing complaint that Jesus ever said a word about going out to teach ‘all nations’.
The burning of an effigy of Pope Francis in Rome on September 5th, by neo-fascist and anti-covid restrictions demonstrators is another sign of gathering grotesquery this year. So is the reported support for this travesty by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, himself an ‘anti-vaxxer’.
Just as in the 1930s there were high level Catholic clerics who mistakenly saw Mussolini and Hitler as the anti-communist saviours of Christianity from communism, there is an even smaller minority of such figures today who learned nothing from that horrific mistake.
Sean O’Conaill, 7th Sept. 2020
To read the full NCR report on the promised encyclical, click here.