Living the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, gives the Pope’s new encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ enhanced relevance and concreteness…
In an interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Chairman of the Higher Committee, expressed this, as he calls the text “a step forward on this journey that the human family must make in this time of conflict and discouragement,” while recognizing “there is still a way to go, for all this to become reality.”
ZENIT Senior Vatican Correspondent spoke to him in the Vatican following the Pope’s Angelus, which followed the press conference to present the Pope’s third encyclical in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where the Cardinal was one of the relators, along with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; Founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Andrea Riccardi; and English Professor of Catholic Social Thought Theology, Anna Roper Rowlands.
‘Fratelli Tutti’ draws inspiration from the Document on Human Fraternity Pope Francis signed with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, during his Feb. 3-5, 2019, Apostolic Trip to the United Arab Emirates. ZENIT English was on the Papal Flight for that first trip of a Pope to the Arabian Peninsula. Since then, under Cardinal Ayuso’s dicastery, with various faiths, and several Muslims, a Higher Committee was instituted for achieving the goals contained in the document.
In this interview, Cardinal Ayuso discusses the encyclical which Pope Francis signed at the Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi yesterday, Oct. 3, on the eve of the beloved saint’s Feast Day. Addressing its value, concreteness and relevance as the world continues to live through a pandemic, he suggests that ‘Fratelli Tutti’ requires an ‘ad intra’ and ‘ad extra’ response.
Since the encyclical also expresses the Pope’s gratitude to the Grand Imam of Al Azhar (as Francis expressed to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Laudato Si, the Cardinal responds to how this resonates with the rest of Islam whose structure does not see him as its representative for the whole religion, like the Catholic Church sees the Pope. Moreover, he also addresses the Vatican’s approach with engaging other religions effectively.
Here is our conversation:
ZENIT: What distinguishes Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ from his others? And how do you see this encyclical enriching Pope Francis’ Teachings?
Cardinal Ayuso: I consider this encyclical a kind of recapitulation of what Francis said, wrote, preached and transmitted to all humanity from the beginning of his pontificate. At first, it might seem that this encyclical does not contain anything particularly new. But it must be read between the lines, also considering that it was published at a very particular moment, after the Covid-19 pandemic. The world is suffering, the world has changed, there are many problems. With this encyclical, Pope Francis addresses not only Catholics but all humanity, so that brotherhood and social friendship prevail and help the human family to live in a more dignified way, to live in a world where rights are respected, where every person is worthily welcomed, where everyone can enjoy the same rights and have the same duties, where we can work together to promote social cohesion. These are all objectives that bring us closer to each other, as a human family, for the concrete good of all.
ZENIT: How is it possible, in practice, that the members of the human family come close to each other?
Now that the encyclical has been presented, the question is to find ways to meditate, rethink and re-propose the values contained in the encyclical. And this must be done both ad intra, inviting Catholics and all Christians of other confessions to put into practice all the principles that make human brotherhood grow, and ad extra, through interreligious dialogue, by exhorting the men and women of others. Religious traditions to live and welcome these principles, so as to facilitate the path of brotherhood and social friendship. But there is a way to go, in fact, for all this to become reality.
ZENIT: The Grand Imam of Al Ahzar, whom the Pope says he is inspired by, is certainly a very authoritative figure. But it cannot be said that he represents all of Islam. How can we dialogue with the Islamic world, given that there is no figure who represents it, equivalent to who the Pope is for the Catholic Church?
Cardinal Ayuso: A religious leader can be more or less representative, but the message of this encyclical is a universal message! We must not think about who has authority or power, we must think about the human being, therefore, appeal to all men of good will and to all religious leaders, regardless of who they represent. And this will be a step forward in the direction of dialogue, a step forward that can bear many fruits, as the Abu Dhabi Document on human brotherhood has already borne fruit. And now, with the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, that document will be of help for yet another step forward. In summary: the Pope with his good will desires a more fraternal world, where every person is welcomed, loved. And this is simply the foundation of our being human.
ZENIT: And what about other religions? What can be the approach so that they too, in addition to Islam, feel just as challenged by and pertinent to this encyclical?
Cardinal Ayuso: I am convinced that when this encyclical is disseminated, starting today, it will have a very welcome and wide reception throughout the world, on the part of all the religious groups with which we of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue collaborate in a different way. There are many initiatives in favor of peace, reconciliation, brotherhood. Therefore, I am very convinced that this encyclical is still a step forward on this journey that the human family must make in this time of conflict and discouragement. This encyclical will help us to live with more hope, with our problems, however, feeling that we are all brothers and sisters.