Fratelli tutti – places and paradigms without borders: Recovering the Franciscan intellectual tradition

Francis Davis focuses on the missing Franciscan potential of Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti.

In October 2020, Pope Francis made his way to Assisi to launch his new social encyclical Fratelli tutti. After celebrating Mass in the crypt that holds the Saint’s relics, he signed the document into existence with a clarion call for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

Many of the panegyrics that accompanied this moment were unconditionally effervescing.2 All of them, however, missed the deeper reality, which was that for all that Pope Francis had travelled to the home of St Francis, called upon his ‘mantle’ for legitimacy for the encyclical, and name-checked the significance of becoming ‘brothers and sisters’, he had effectively side-stepped the opportunity to embrace authentic Franciscan theology. More than that, Thomist and other sources throughout the text outstrip by a significant factor his Franciscan ones.

By locating Pope Francis’ Fratelli tutti more fully in a Franciscan context, this article seeks to compensate for the hasty sins of omission committed by gleeful commentators. In doing so, it begins to identify resources upon which those inspired by its words might draw – for building social justice in modern societies needs an attention to detail those more sweeping generalisations of so many concerned for Catholic social thought deny.3

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