Intervention at the Press Conference for the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti
H. Em. Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J.
4 October 2020
I am grateful for the opportunity to present the Encyclical Fratelli tutti, dedicated to fraternity and social friendship; it is a precious gift that the Holy Father has given not only to us Catholics but to the whole of humanity.
I greet all the distinguished speakers who have joined with me in presenting this Encyclical, and most especially Dr. Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Councilor of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. He is a dear friend with whom I collaborate on the High Committee for Human Fraternity, formed in August 2019 to give continuity and effectiveness to the objectives spelled out in the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. His presence here is truly an excellent example of fraternity!
I want to thank Pope Francis publicly, in the name of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue over which I preside, for the impetus he has given to interreligious dialogue since the very beginning of his pontificate.
I cannot read the Encyclical without emotion, especially chapter eight, “Religions at the Service of Fraternity in Our World.” I have collaborated with Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate, that is, for almost eight years now. I can attest to how much work has been done, even amid undeniable difficulties, including the most recent one, the pandemic caused by COVID-19.
Interreligious dialogue is truly at the heart of the reflections and actions of Pope Francis. In fact, as Fratelli tutti states, “The effort to seek God with a sincere heart, provided it is never sullied by ideological or self-serving aims, helps us recognize one another as travelling companions, truly brothers and sisters” (FT 274).
The very title of the Encyclical expresses a clear desire to address everyone as brothers and sisters. It is an existential reality that Pope Francis calmly takes for granted: we are all brothers and sisters—no one is excluded! Certainly, the path of dialogue among persons of different religious traditions has not just begun. It is part of the Church’s original mission, and it has deep roots in the Second Vatican Council.
In seeing respect and friendship as two fundamental attitudes, Pope Francis has opened another door, so that the oxygen of fraternity can enter into the dialogue between persons of different religious traditions, between believers and non-believers, and among all persons of good will.
The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, represented a milestone in interreligious dialogue, but that was neither the start nor the finish. We are on the road! Fratelli tutti, with its far-sighted and merciful perspective, encourages us to tread the common ground of human fraternity. This common ground is a truth that is ancient, but it may sound new in today’s world, which is often atrophied by selfishness. Believers of different religious traditions can offer their own valuable contributions to universal fraternity in the societies in which they live. Fratelli tutti states: “It is wrong when the only voices to be heard in public debate are those of the powerful and ‘experts.’ Room needs to be made for reflections born of religious traditions that are the repository of centuries of experience and wisdom” (FT 275). In reality, religious believers are witnesses and bearers of values that can make a great contribution to the building of societies that are healthier and more just. Integrity, fidelity, love of the common good, concern for others (especially the needy), kindness, and mercy are valuable tools that form part of the spiritual treasury of the diverse religions.
Living one’s own identity in the “courage of otherness” is the threshold that the Church of Pope Francis is asking us to cross today.
We are asked to take concrete steps along with believers of other religions and with persons of good will, with the hope that we will all feel called to be messengers of peace and builders of communion, especially in these difficult times.
God is the Creator of everyone and everything. We are therefore members of one family and should recognize one another as such. This is the basic criterion that faith offers us for advancing from being merely tolerant to living together as brothers and sisters.
When Pope Francis invites the different religions to place themselves at the service of fraternity for the good of all humanity, he is announcing a new epoch. Our shared journey opens us up to new light and new creativity, challenging the very heart of every religion. Moreover, fraternity can also become the path for religious beliefs.
In a dehumanized world, in which relations among persons are characterized by indifference and greed, there is need for a new and universal solidarity and a new dialogue based on fraternity. Interreligious dialogue has an essential function in building a civil society that includes everyone and rejects the throwaway culture. The objective of dialogue is to work, in genuine collaboration among all believers, to achieve what is good for all humankind by struggling against all the injustices that still afflict our world and by condemning every type of violence.
Looking toward the future, then, we should take care that religions do not close in upon themselves. While we remain firmly rooted in our own identities as believers, we should resolve, together with all persons of good will and despite our differences, to move forward on the path of human fraternity. In the world there are many religions. From the interreligious perspective, we have to maintain a relation of respect and friendship, as the Pope wishes. This will allow us to defend the equality of all as human beings. We are believers with different visions, and we should not renounce our own identity, but we should call for sincerity of intentions.
Let us again give thanks to Pope Francis because Fratelli tutti makes us all feel closer to the love of Christ and the Church, and it encourages us to place ourselves, all together, at the service of the fraternity of this world.
Thank you for your kind attention.