Fratelli Tutti: The Art of Encounter

Pope Francis signs Fratelli Tutti

Fratelli Tutti, On Fraternity and Social Friendship, was released by Pope Francis on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Fr. Robert Gahl, Vice Chair of the Program of Church Management, offers an initial reflection on the meaning and lessons of the encyclical. You can follow Fr. Bob on Twitter here.


In his new encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis challenges the world to live with true fraternity, a friendship rooted in God’s love for all. While many leap to comment on their favorite political or theological theme, perhaps no one has yet noted that Fratelli Tutti is the first encyclical to quote a popular music composer, the Brazilian Vinícius de Moraes, also known as O Poetinha, who wrote the lyrics to “The Girl from Ipanema” establishing bossa nova style. The Pope’s quotation encapsulates the encyclical: “Life, for all its confrontations, is the art of encounter”.(FT215)

Incisively for many current debates, Fratelli Tutti promotes full citizenship by rejecting all forms of racism including the identity politics of victimhood.

The Holy Father draws from the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity to denounce “the discriminatory use of the term minorities which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority. Its misuse paves the way for hostility and discord; it undoes any successes and takes away the religious and civil rights of some citizens who are thus discriminated against.” (FT 131)

Pope Francis promotes solidarity and emphasizes the limitations of the principle of private property, since it depends on the more fundamental universal destination of all goods. He also promotes subsidiarity by defending local action which “has to be eagerly embraced, for it possesses something that the global does not: it is capable of being a leaven, of bringing enrichment, of sparking mechanisms of subsidiarity.” (FT 142)

Globalism in Fratelli Tutti

The Holy Father also rejects globalism. While the common good must be sought, including at the global level, our global aim should never be at the expense of local identities. Global solidarity is not homogenization. Such globalism did not end well with the Tower of Babel.

“Universal does not necessarily mean bland, uniform and standardized, based on a single prevailing cultural model, for this will ultimately lead to the loss of a rich palette of shades and colors, and result in utter monotony.” (FT 144)

Pope Francis denounces economic injustice while defending business activity that promotes development by “finding the best economic and technological means of multiplying goods and increasing wealth. Business abilities, which are a gift from God, should always be clearly directed to the development of others and to eliminating poverty, especially through the creation of diversified work opportunities.”(FT 123)

Much more will be said about Fratelli Tutti in coming days, and indeed, years. Read the encyclical for yourself here.

Fr. Robert Gahl
Fr. Robert Gahl

Robert Gahl is an Associate Professor of Ethics in the School of Philosophy of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce), the Vice Director of the Markets, Culture, and Ethics (MCE) Research Centre,  founding Vice Chair of the Program of Church Management, and a Research Affiliate at Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1964), he completed his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (1984) while gaining experience in aircraft manufacturing with McDonnell Douglas. He worked in Silicon Valley with control software of electron beam lithography systems (1985-1987). After completing his Licentiate in philosophy at the University of Navarre (Pamplona, Spain, 1989) and his doctorate in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (1991), he did postdoctoral research at the University of Notre Dame (1993). He was ordained to the diaconate by  Blessed Alvaro del Portillo and to the priesthood by St. John Paul II (1992). He has published on the narrative structure of the moral life, cognitive behavioral therapy and corporate social behavior, and the social doctrine of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He has directed courses on institutional mission at leading health care and medical research centers and on virtuous leadership for Italy’s center for defense studies (IASD). He has offered analysis regarding issues of ethics and Church affairs for numerous media outlets including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, La Presse, The National Catholic Reporter, AP, CNN, CBS, BBC, Al Jazeera, RTE, La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, and Vatican Radio. In addition to Italy and the USA, he has lectured in the Vatican, UK, Spain, Kenya, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia and Poland.