Yesterday, December 12, we celebrated the grand feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Maybe there could be no other way to approach Pope Francis encyclical, Fratelli Tutti than from the perspective of Our Lady. Especially this Chapter 6 on Dialogue and Friendship. If you have not done so, download the encyclical, then when you have a moment here or there, you will have it handy. www.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html.
Chapter 6: Dialogue and Friendship in Society
“…[Once] kindness becomes a culture within society it transforms lifestyles, relationships and the ways ideas are discussed and compared. Kindness facilitates the quest for consensus; it opens new paths where hostility and conflict would burn all bridges” (224).
The Holy Father explains that authentic dialogue is necessary for building a better world. Pope Francis first addresses the shortcomings of discourse in social and journalistic media, which he says can foster a “feverish exchange of opinions” or “parallel monologues” rather than true dialogue (202). “Social dialogue” requires interlocutors who each deeply respect the other’s experiences and values.
Dialogue can help us lead to “social consensus” based on facts and reasoning, but more importantly, it can help us recognize fundamental truths upon which we base our societies’ moral principles. With absent moral reasoning and an authentic search for truth, we lose the grounding of the meaning of life and human dignity. Pope Francis calls for the careful cultivation of a “culture of encounter” which can help us transcend our divisions and differences as we work together to pursue the common good. Such a culture is hard-won, requiring effort and sacrifice from all of us.
He closes the chapter by calling us to “recover kindness” in a renewed, enriched sense – a kindness which is an antidote to indifference, based not merely on civility but on genuine concern for others.
Have you ever experienced such a “culture of encounter?”
What would it look like to cultivate it in your own neighborhood or community?