CAFOD’s Director, Christine Allen, considers how Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti can inspire us all to be a force for change this year and help to build a fairer world.
Creating a culture of encounter
In October, last year, we derived inspiration for our work from Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’s latest encyclical. His was an unflinching, powerful voice criticising the failures of global cooperation in response to the challenges of Covid-19 – growing inequality, conflict and racial unrest.
Warning against the politics of individualism he reminded us that we are all brothers and sisters together, building relationships and building peace. Proclaiming a “culture of encounter” Francis urges us to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, to become a neighbour to those who are excluded, particularly migrants and refugees.
This message comes at a time when the politics of division seems to be thriving on both sides of the Atlantic. The Black Lives Matter movement speaks of lived experiences – of oppression, life lived on the margins, voices ignored for far too long.
Holding governments to account
The coronavirus pandemic has also served to push the climate crisis back into the spotlight. This means we can learn lessons and grab opportunities that will lead to environmental action. We can form long-lasting sustainable habits – such as reducing our travel, food waste and personal consumption. And hold international governments to account on their commitment to a low-carbon world at the Glasgow COP26 (Climate summit) in 2021.
In the last weeks of 2020, the UK government announced in its spending review that the foreign aid budget would be cut from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent. Aid spending on tackling global poverty must not be treated as a charitable favour to the world, but as Britain’s moral duty. We appreciate the challenges our economy is facing, but now is not the time to build fences when the coronavirus pandemic threatens to push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty.
Acting as one human family
We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are people with dreams, vision, energy and entrepreneurial spirit, looking to transform their lives, and those of their families and communities – just like any of us.
We are all searching for deeper meaning in the Covid-19 crisis. If it has taught us anything, it is that we are one human family, and together we are a great force for change.
The lockdowns brought out the best in people, from clapping for carers to supporting the 100-year-old Captain Sir Tom Moore to raise more than £30 million for charity.
Faith communities of all dominations came forward too. Rather than bemoaning the closure of churches, temples and mosques, many were happy to turn them into bases for delivering food and support.
Reclaiming our common home
In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis calls for a kinder society. Covid-19 has tested our sense of community, and I think the vast majority passed that test. We have stepped up to the mark, so let us not slip back amid the greater freedom we might experience next year. Instead, let our new-found freedom propel us to new heights and realise a more compassionate and caring world where everyone is included.