It has been rightly called the ‘political manifesto’ of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The new encyclical ‘All Brothers’ wants to plead the cause of universal fraternity and social friendship. This is a theme that Pope Francis has disseminated in many speeches. Not surprisingly, he himself is by far the most cited author in the work (about 180 times).
It is only in the eighth (and last) chapter of the encyclical that the pope deals with the theme of fraternity with religions, and here the document becomes more ‘theological’. This section can be considered as an interpretation of the ‘Document on Human Fraternity for world peace and living together’ that Francis himself signed in Abu Dhabi with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in 2019. Its basic message is sufficiently clear: we are all brothers as children of the same God.
When ‘All Brothers’ talks about God, it does so in general terms which can fit Muslim, Hindu and other religions’ accounts of god. To further confirm this, ‘All Brothers’ ends with a ‘Prayer to the Creator’ that could be used both in a mosque and in a Masonic temple. Having removed the ‘stumbling block’ of Jesus Christ, everyone can turn to an unspecified divinity to experiment with what it means to be ‘brothers’ – brothers in a divinity made in the image and likeness of humanity, not brothers and sisters on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ who has died and risen for sinners.
The papal document is deist, at best theistic, but it does not seem to be in line with biblical and trinitarian Christianity. While we are all neighbours regardless our faith commitments (and Christians must love the neighbour), we are brothers and sisters with to who are ‘in Christ’.
Leonardo De Chirico