Chapter I— The shadows of a closed world
What a joy for the associates of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary is this encyclical from Pope Francis! I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t resist.
Before he presents us with his dream that we have all become brothers and sisters in humanity, Pope Francis draws our attention to the manifestations of the lack of fraternity in the world, what he calls “the shadows of a closed world.” Courageously, he devotes the first chapter of this letter to this theme (#9 to 56). This is what I want to discuss with you in this reflection.
What are these shadows? The pope presents us with “certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity” (#9). He says that these trends are “lacking a plan for everyone” (! 15), that they lead to “at absence of human dignity on the borders” of our countries (#37 to 42).
Where Saint Francis of Assisi favoured an approach “without borders” to “embrace everyone” (#3), today the “opening up to the world” is monopolized by economy and finance (#12). This trend towards globalization favours the identity of the strongest to the detriment of the weakest and the poorest, quite the opposite of what the saint wanted.
We face a globalization of marginalization (#18–22). “What is thrown away are not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves,” (#19) writes the pope, citing among other examples how children are increasingly affected by poverty (#29); how the elderly are abandoned to their loneliness (#19); how people are reduced to unemployment, resulting from an obsession with reducing labour costs (#20); how migrants, victims of “unscrupulous traffickers” (#38), mafia groups, drug and arms cartels, are exposed to racism and, still today, slavery. Human trafficking has reappeared; human beings are kidnapped for organ trafficking; women suffer from situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence (#23). “Many forms of injustice persist, fed … by a profit-based economic model,” (#22) without forgetting the injustice due to the absence of an equitable distribution of natural resources (#29).
The pope also speaks of the illusion of communication (#42–50). He questions digital media with their “risk of addiction, isolation and a gradual loss of contact with concrete reality” (# 43). He denounces false information, fake news, networks of verbal violence on the Internet and through various forums (#45). He warns Christians that they are not exempt from all this (#39 and 46).
One might be discouraged after reading this first chapter. However, as a French Lenten hymn says, “Let us not to be overwhelmed by the shadows.” Pope Francis does not leave us in desolation: he promises to present many paths of hope in the following chapters. The Pope himself works in this direction. In spite of all the possible risks, he visited Iraq from March 5 to 8, 2021 with the pilgrimage motto: “You are all brothers.” He invites us to walk in this same hope.
What is my hope? What does “opening up to the world” mean to me?
By carefully observing my living environment, I ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten me. Do I recognize these vicissitudes that the Holy Father denounces?
I try to identify one or two of them. What would Jesus do in my place? I discuss it with people around me. Alone or with a group, I choose and enact one or more concrete actions to counter them.
Does the expression “outward-bound Church” now make sense to me?
Nicole Fortier-Courcy, afmm (Gatineau group)