“Fratelli tutti”: an invitation to reform society in the light of integral ecology | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

“Fratelli tutti”: an invitation to reform society in the light of integral ecology

Fr. Giorgio Vigna defines them “essential tools”, which can be used by everyone who works for the care and beauty of the Creation. This is how the head of the GPIC (Justice Peace and Integrity of the Creation) Commission for the Custody of the Holy Land introduces the  bibliography he has drawn up  and which can now  be downloaded here. From Franciscan writings to sources of the Holy See or encyclicals, the bibiliography collects the documents necessary for formation and work in the field of educational or pastoral animation on Justice, Peace and the integrity of the Creation. “The criterion was the availability of finding the materials online,” Fr. Giorgio explained. “This bibliography has been prepared first and foremost for the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land and of the Order of Friars Minor, but then also for everyone who is interested in these topics.” Particular attention has been given to the documents of the Church and of the Order of Friars Minor and to the handbooks of various origin.

“The Holy Land certainly presents a peculiarity due to the socio-political and religious environment. In this context, our office must not directly launch initiatives, but do animation for the friars who work in various fields and they will then be the ones to take the initiative,” continues Fr. Giorgio. “After the publication of the papal encyclical Laudato Si’, I held meetings with the friars who work in the schools and in the parishes and from there autonomous initiatives were triggered off.” In Jericho, for example, the head of the Holy Land School, Fr. Mario Hadchiti, has carried on an educational activity on recycling school materials, against waste and to encourage re-use. Fr. John Luke, the superior of the convent of the Custody of the Holy Land, is also very sensitive to the topics of the GPIC commission and thanks to the work he does with migrants, he aims to take as his own the words of the Pope which speak of “integral ecology”. “Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was easier to travel,” Fr. Giorgio explains. “It was important to travel physically to meet, in particular, the younger friars in formation in Montefalco.”

After the publication of Pope Francis’s new encyclical Fratelli tutti on 4th October  2020, a new challenge awaits Fr. Giorgio Vigna. The head of the GPIC commission has explained that it will be important above all to involve the friars from the point of view of the study of the Encyclical. “The second level will be that of raising awareness on the topics discussed, through meetings with the heads of the schools and of the parishes of the Custody, but also with external partners, in the Jewish world, for example, where I have heard that some rabbis are enthusiastic about what the Pope has written.” According to Fr. Giorgio, Fratelli tutti aims to reform society on a number of levels: on the levels of the family, relations and politics.

“I want to emphasize in particular the need for integral ecology, which in Fratelli tutti is stressed.” The idea of Pope Francis, already made clear from the Encyclical Laudato Si’, us that in this world everything is “connected”, “linked” and “in relation” and this is why we cannot look after the Creation without looking after others, our brothers, our relations. “It is important to understand that attention is for man,” Fr. Giorgio explains. “It is necessary to make an effort of deconstruction, concerning the Pope’s thought and the concept of integral ecology, to demolish the resistances that many have and be able to understand the message of the Encyclical.”

The methodology used by Francis in organizing Fratelli tutti is different from the one usually used, according to Fr. Giorgio. While an encyclical usually starts from principles to then talk about reality, Fratelli tutti  starts from looking at reality and then the answer is given to the problems of society. The first chapter talks about reality in all its facets, from the economy to relations, which is precisely the point of view of integral ecology, up to the last chapter which brings together the biblical references. 

“I believe that it is possible to read the Encyclical on different levels: the political one, the anthropological one (philosophical and theological), on the level of theology of religions (to understand the role of religions for human and social development and how they can interact with one another) and use a Franciscan interpretation. A Franciscan who is not passionate about integral ecology is not a Franciscan, but to say this a recurring prejudice has to be broken down,” maintains the head of the GPIC commission of the Custody. St Francis is well known for his attention to nature and animals, but we cannot fail to take into account his attitude towards man, as can be seen in how he looked after the leper or a friar who was ill. “St Francis was attentive to the person  and understanding their value even in their weakness.”


Beatrice Guarrera