Missions 109
Si mille vitas haberem, cunctas Ei offerrem
Ad Meliora Semper 2021 ©missions109 TOWARD A MISSION OF OPENNESS

“Fratelli Tutti” marks the third Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis. It reveals the concrete path of his papacy focusing on Fraternity which was one of the essential virtues St. Francis promoted, preached, witnessed, and lived during his time. Earlier, in his second Encyclical, Laudato Si which was issued on 24 May 2015, he was calling and encouraging us to take care of our common home, now Fratelli Tutti encourages us to develop our “innate vocation to fraternity” especially as we move toward a post-COVID 19 world. Our common experience of COVID-19 became an opportunity for us to rethink and rediscover God’s gift of brotherhood in each one of us and to “contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity” (FT 8). The pandemic had brought us to the different levels of “lockdown” which made us experience a closed world. The Pope wrote the Letter to encourage everyone to reflect on the virtue of fraternity as a way to open the world once again to a new experience of humanity liberated from a common enemy. Fraternity would be “a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure” (FT 8). In the Letter, Pope Francis mentions about the “dark clouds over a closed world” yet, in the document he mentions seven forms of openness that will help us move towards a new open world characterized by a culture of fraternity.

1. Fraternal Openness (FT 1)

True fraternity will always lead towards true fraternal openness. The Encyclical opens with a quick recall about how Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them “a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel” (FT 1). Pope Francis speaks of a love that transcends geographical barriers and distances. It is a love that promotes fraternal openness. COVID-19 had brought the whole world to its knees. Everyone lived in fear and it was true that the world was not prepared for it. The Pope admitted that while he was writing the Letter, the pandemic “unexpectedly erupted.” Though the world, with its advanced technologies had used advanced forms of communication, experiences of globalization, and efficient apparatus for connectivity to form a “global village” to man, yet the irony was: man found it difficult to arrest immediately the disease and man seems not to have responded in harmony to the threats of a common enemy. Fratelli Tutti highlighted that for “all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all” (FT 7). A post COVID-19 reflection should take in consideration to see what went wrong and to make a wholistic approach to the context where all of us were affected and how the common humanity should address a common problem like this. What is transpiring underway among nations instead is the thought of improving health systems and the budget that have to be allocated for future pandemic atrocities. The document observed: the problem among many nations was the thought that  “the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality” (FT 7). Government’s programs and plans should be espoused with value of fraternity to achieve the common good. Is not that we also need fraternal openness to address a world in crisis like this? “Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.” (FT1)

2. Creative Openness (FT 41)

 Migration is a worldwide phenomenon even during the biblical times. People migrate due to various purposes. Security, peace, poverty are the major reasons for people to change places of domicile. Pope Francis views the close relationship between charity and creative openness especially in those who migrate. He mentions about the closed doors among nations that contribute to the problems related to migration in a wider level. Today people experience rejection and neglect as they seek refuge in safer lands. As they are displaced  due to wars, poverty, and violence, several countries closed their borders to refugees, evacuees, emigrants, and homeless families. The Pope understands that while it is natural for countries to close their borders for security and safety, it is imperative for governments to foster and promote creative openness that would regulate and accompany these people. Pope Francis asserts: it is “true that an individual and a people are only fruitful and productive if they are able to develop a creative openness to others” (FT 41). Creative openness can be efficiently carried out if there is a good venue for a creative encounter for the common good. Many countries close their borders for “fear and alarm” with regard to the problems migration brings yet, fears create an atmosphere of indifference and rejection. If there will be a sense of “creative openness” among governments then that would lead toward creative ways of welcome, hospitality, order and accommodation. If programs would serve sincerely the common good, there will be a fruitful integration of cultures that will form new opportunities to growth. For the Church, this phenomenon may create new challenges and opportunities for mission and evangelization.

3. Authentic Openness (FT 74)

 Authentic openness is realized through our intimate relationship with God. A grateful person cannot overlook at the needs of others. The vertical authentic openness to God has to be equally manifested on the horizontal level through our mindfulness of needy brothers and sisters. Our encounter with them is a sign of our fraternity and it epitomizes the sincerity of our relationship we have with God. Pope Francis says: “the process of building fraternity, be it local or universal, can only be undertaken by spirits that are free and open to authentic encounters.” (FT 50) In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows how faith in God may be inauthentic if not shown to the ones who badly need our help. We cannot pass by on the opposite if we see someone in need like the one “left half dead on the road.” The disposition of the priest and the Levite who ignored the person dying on the road because of ritual and temple prescriptions allows us to imagine how people feel when they are being neglected. We could figure out the painful experiences of people when they are left behind. Pope Francis says that this is a “sad reflection of the growing gulf between ourselves and the world around us” (FT73). Our authentic openness to God will surely lead to an authentic openness to our deprived brothers and sisters.

4. Universal Openness

 Fraternity is not a lofty idea nor just an empty word but a dynamic grace that moves towards the hearts of others and seeks their good. Man, by nature has to love and to be loved. If love has to be universal, then we do not only love those who love us. Even Jesus commented on that saying: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them” (Lk 6:32). Pope Francis says that love can never mature if it withdraws from its direction towards others (cf FT 95). Many of those among us live in the “peripheries” whether in the city or right just in our families. There are those who seek recognition and affirmation from others, those who seek an open ear, those who are hungry, those who are homeless, those who are sick, and those who are in grief.  Our hearts cannot be insensitive to them if we possesses fraternal love. By its nature, “love calls for growth in openness and the ability to accept others as part of a continuing adventure that makes every periphery converge in a greater sense of mutual belonging” (FT 97). The Pope understands love as existential rather than just geographical. Today, many experience the indifference of people. They feel the gap or distance of someone who is just even geographically close. He cites the example of “hidden exiles” who are “treated as foreign bodies in society” (FT 97). They are the persons with disabilities who feel they exist but do not belong and participate (cf FT 98). How many of us live in a society whose dreams are not realized, whose existence is never felt, whose life is never valued, and whose future is never fulfilled. Every brother or sister in need, when abandoned or ignored by the society in which I live, becomes an existential foreigner, even though born in the same country (FT 97).

5. Healthy Openness (FT 148)

 A healthy form of openness is integrative and interdependent. Pope Francis implies four elements in a integrative openness: a) it does not threaten one’s identity. This means that individuals and cultures reinforce each other sharing the richness of their traditions to build a new culture that allow persons to grow and live in harmony; 2) it is mutually nourishing. It is a form of openness that allows culture to be enriched by the elements of other cultures and not a duplication or a copy of one; 3) it promotes authentic dialogue. The development of cultures is not measured out by infrastructures or advancement of technology but the advancement of the human person through dialogue and interaction between people who “cherish their roots and ancestral cultures” (FT 148); 4) to build a communion of cultures. Healthy openness leads to a communion of peoples rather than a dominance or oppression of one over the other. To be superior over the other can never foster an integrative direction of cultures. We all belong to one human family and “the mutual sense of belonging is prior to the emergence of individual groups” (FT 149).

6. Appropriate Openness (FT 151)

 In many parts of the world, the sense of solidarity among the poorer societies have been noticeable and through the regional exchanges, Pope Francis observed that “poorer countries become open to the wider world, universality does not necessarily water down their distinct features” (FT 151). It is believed that the capacity to be fraternal to a neighbor next to you will have the capacity to be a fraternal to anyone in the world. The ability to be part of the global community has to be rooted on the capacity to be open to one’s neighbor. Openness at home will help us be open to the rest of the world. The start at the micro level of fraternity will lead towards an effective interaction and service of a macro fraternal world. The love of one’s neighbor is an “indispensable step towards attaining a healthy universal integration”(FT 151). This is what Pope Francis meant by appropriate openness.

7. Genuine Openness (FT 203)

 Authentic social dialogue is dependent on genuine openness of people. True dialogue has to be an external expression of the internal disposition towards charity. A person who dialogues with another has a message to give and a gift to share. In a friendship with genuine openness, the Pope mentions three important observable elements: first, the ability to see and accept differences. People may be consistent in their thinking, defend their values and convictions and develop their arguments but this can only be beneficial if there is genuine openness (cf FT 203). Second, differences are creative and they create tension among peoples but in the resolution of these tensions lies the progress of humanity. The capacity to build fraternity and communion in the midst of differences is a challenging one yet it measures out the strength of cohesive humanity brought about by genuine openness; third, genuine openness includes the growth in what people say and do. Genuine openness does not stop looking at each other’s differences but journeys towards identifying the similarities they share. It helps them view similarities as a guaranteed path towards human interdependence and fraternity.