Journeying Together as Brothers and Sisters

By: Mar Muñoz-Visoso, MTS

Mar Munoz-Visoso

At a recent international conference, Cardinal Michael Czerny of the Vatican’s Section on Migrants and Refugees was asked about his take on Pope Francis’ newest encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti (on human fraternity and social friendship). The Cardinal highlighted several aspects particularly relevant to him and to his work in responding to the plight of migrants. But it was his overall evaluation of the encyclical that caught my attention the most.

“If you think of the significance of Rerum Novarum (1891) from Pope Leo XIII on the rights and duties of capital and labor, or Pacem in Terris from Pope John XXIII (1963) advising a post-war world that peace between all peoples must be based on truth, justice, love and freedom, at the time when they were issued, then, Fratelli Tutti would be the equivalent for our time.” Cardinal Czerny’s weighty comparison set high expectations in me and made me want to dive into it as soon as it was out.

In my humble opinion, he was not wrong or remotely exaggerating. It will take a while to dissect it completely —there is a lot to digest there. But even at this early stage, it is easy to recognize that in Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis is offering a weary world, and not just Catholics, the Church’s teaching and the medicine that it desperately needs at this junction.

The pope reminds us of the basic tenets of Catholic social teaching on human dignity, our vocation to love one another and our call to universal friendship, the nature and root of social conflict, and our duty to seek and work towards the common good of all. He encourages us, in imitation of St. Francis of Assisi, the saint that inspired both Laudato Si’ and Fratelli, to sow “seeds of peace” wherever we go and “spread the love of God” which knows no boundaries.

By now we have grown accustomed to Pope Francis’ “synodal way”, which he applies not only to meetings but also to his writings. He quotes extensively from magisterial teachings, including his own and that of prior pontiffs, Fathers of the Church, bishops and conferences from around the world, and also from ground-breaking joint efforts with brothers and sisters of other faiths, such us the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together (Abu Dhabi 2019), letting them speak for themselves. He offers a great summary of his own thoughts on the topic gathered from various messages, speeches, and writings during his pontificate.

Fratelli Tutti encourages us to continue along this synodal pathway of listening and accompanying one another. Judging by the way Catholic young adults and ministry leaders in the United States are responding to it through the Journeying Together process of encounter, inspired by the Holy Father’s exhortation Christus Vivit, this “walking alongside” one another is healing a lot of wounds, bringing different people together in the midst of an ongoing pandemic in previously unimagined ways, and creating many new friendships that will bear much fruit for the future of the Church and for society.

Since July 25, 2020 Catholic young adults, youth ministers, campus ministers, bishops and staff from various departments of the USCCB, representing many and diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, have been “journeying together”. This issue is dedicated to gather the initial experiences of this process in the words of several of their protagonists. I hope you will enjoy and be inspired by them.