Pope Francis: Fratelli Tutti, The Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship.


Since the commencement of his papacy in 2013, we have felt a strong resonance between the agenda of Pope Francis and the program of Orbis Books. In his strong mission-centered agenda, his emphasis on mercy and on care for the poor and for the earth, and his determination to reach out to those on the margins and peripheries, we found so many connections with our work. In the past seven years we have published over a dozen volumes of his writings, including addresses to young people, his morning homilies, reflections on mission and the Gospels, on the Creed, the Works of Mercy, and on migrants and refugees, along with his apostolic exhortations on the call to holiness and the Amazon Synod, and his encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.

Last fall we were deeply moved to receive a personal letter from Pope Francis, commending Orbis on our 50th anniversary, and thanking us for all the efforts we make “to sow, even ‘against wind and tides,’ a culture based on fraternity.”

That theme of “fraternity and social friendship,” as it turned out, would be the precise focus of the pope’s most recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. The title is drawn from words of St. Francis of Assisi, who expressed his brotherhood and friendship with all creatures, especially the poor, underlining, as Pope Francis has so many times since selecting his papal name, the spirit that inspires his vision for renewing the Church.

Fratelli Tutti outlines the path to a culture of encounter and solidarity, calling on Christians and people of good will throughout the world to recognize our common humanity, to build bridges, and to care for our common home.

The pope addresses specific issues, including the death penalty, the  practical limitations of “just war” teaching, the rise of new forms of popular nationalism, the challenges of the pandemic, and the plight of migrants and refugees. Beneath all these topical issues lies a profound call to discernment and conversion and a conviction that in the Gospel of Jesus we may find a different way of being in the world.

In one particularly moving section of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis reflects on the parable of the Good Samaritan, asking us to consider, “Which of the persons do you identify with? … Which of these characters do you resemble?” According to Francis, we face a fundamental choice: “Here, all our distinctions, labels and masks fall away: it is the moment of truth. Will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of the other?”

The Orbis edition of Fratelli Tutti includes an insightful introduction by Franciscan Father Daniel Horan. While situating the encyclical within the tradition of Catholic social teaching, and in relation to the specific challenges facing the world today, he also helpfully lays out the Franciscan lens that informs Pope Francis’ reading of the Gospel and the world.

In his letter to Orbis, the pope underscored the important role books can play in offering “a compass that points the way, guides and allows us to cultivate a spirit capable of moving toward great goals that embrace the good that awaits us all.” He encouraged us in the “delicate task” of creating volumes that “give flight to the spirit” and that help people imagine that “a different way of writing history is possible.”

With that encouragement, and with this new encyclical, we look forward to embarking on our next 50 years!

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