Responding to critics, Vatican clarifies Pope Francis’ new encyclical is addressed to both men and women

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sept. 13, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Fratelli tutti,” the title of Pope Francis’s new encyclical is to be understood as including both men and women, the Vatican stated today in a front-page editorial in L’Osservatore Romano, its daily newspaper, headlined “an encyclical for all brothers and sisters.”

The editorial clarifies that the encyclical “addresses all his sisters and brothers, all men and women of good will who populate the earth: everyone, inclusively, and in no way exclusively.”

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The editorial in L’Osservatore Romano was a response to the contestation of the title by a number of people in the Anglophone world.

The editorial was written to respond to the discussion and contestation of the title by a number of people in the Anglophone world, and especially in the United States, where the title “Fratelli tutti” was perceived as referring only to men, with some decrying it as misogynist. The discussion reached the higher levels in the Vatican, and the decision was made to remove any doubt concerning the pope’s intentions.

The editorial, written by Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of Vatican News, explained that Pope Francis chose the title “Fratelli tutti.” They are the first words of the encyclical, “a direct quotation from St Francis (taken from the Admonitions, 6, 1: FF 155) and the pope has obviously not changed it.” It emphasized, however, that “the formulation of the title in no way intends to exclude women, that is, more than half of the human race.”

It said Pope Francis “chose the words of the Saint of Assisi to initiate a reflection on something he cares about very deeply: namely, fraternity and social friendship. He therefore addresses all his sisters and brothers, all men and women of good will who populate the earth: everyone, inclusively, and in no way exclusively.”

“The original Italian title will be used, without being translated, in all the languages in which the document is published.”

The Vatican editorial said that “the original Italian title will be used, without being translated, in all the languages in which the document is published.”

It confirmed that Pope Francis will sign the encyclical, addressed to “the whole of humanity”, at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi on Oct, 3. It will be released at noon (Rome time) on Sunday, Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Noting that “we live in a time marked by war, poverty, migration, climate change, economic crises, pandemic,” the Vatican editorial said, “recognizing a brother or sister in everyone we meet and, for Christians, recognizing the face of Jesus in the other who suffers…reaffirms the irreducible dignity of every human person created in the image of God.” It said that this recognition of others as brothers and sisters “also reminds us that no one can ever emerge from the present hardships alone, one against the other, the global North against the global South, the rich against the poor or any other excluding differentiation.”

It recalled that on March 27, at the height of the pandemic, Pope Francis prayed, in an empty St. Peter’s Square, “for the salvation of all” and told the world, “in this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.”

The editorial revealed that this “common belonging,” which “makes us brothers and sisters,” is “the central theme of the upcoming papal letter.” It explained that “fraternity and social friendship, the themes indicated in the subtitle, point to what unites men and women: a necessary affection established between people even if not close blood relatives….a disinterested affection towards other human beings, regardless of any difference or affiliation.” For this reason, it said, “there can be no possible misunderstanding or exclusive reading of the universal and inclusive title Fratelli tutti.”

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