Pope Francis Launches His Post-Coronavirus Agenda With Announcement of New Encyclical

People wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his first general audience with faithful since February, when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican, on Sept. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
People wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his first general audience with faithful since February, when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican, on Sept. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — With the announcement of a new document coming this fall, Pope Francis is launching his agenda for a world after the pandemic, one in which nations and individuals will rethink economic models and create more just systems.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed rumors on Saturday (Sept. 5) of the release of a new encyclical by Pope Francis on human fraternity. The title, “Brothers all,” is inspired by the words of St. Francis of Assisi.

The pope will sign his third encyclical at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi on Oct. 3, the day before the feast day of the famous friar.

Due to the safety measures enacted after the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope will make the visit in “private form, without participation of the faithful,” Bruni explained. To prevent the crowds that usually accompany papal events, Francis will be returning to the Vatican immediately after the signing ceremony.

While some people spent the monthslong lockdowns making bread, knitting or watching Netflix, Francis seems to have pondered a plan for a new economic model, one that doesn’t trickle from the top of age-old systems and institutions but is built from the ground up, starting with younger generations.

A series of important speeches and events scheduled for the fall, coupled with documents released during the summer lockdown months, offer a glimpse into Pope Francis’ plans.

This year also marks the fifth anniversary of Francis’ second encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” which focused on promoting forms of development that take into account the dignity of the human person and the environment.

Francis’ choice to sign the new encyclical at the tomb of his namesake saint suggests the document will be focused — just like this pontificate — on the poor, the environment and human connection.

“This gesture by Pope Francis gives us new courage and strength to restart,” said Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, speaking to local reporters on Saturday.

“Once more, even if in a strictly private form, Pope Francis will be in Assisi at the tomb of St. Francis to offer a message to the world that finds inspiration and comfort in the saint from Assisi. It’s the message of fraternity,” he added.

Very little is known about the latest encyclical at the moment, but some of Francis’ most recent speeches and comments seem to hint at its content and scope.

This April, Francis granted an interview to the Spanish-language paper Vida Nueva where he proposed a “plan to resurrect” after coronavirus lockdowns. The plan is anchored on the global interconnectedness that became so apparent during the pandemic.

“If we were able to learn something in all this time is that nobody saves themselves alone,” Francis said, adding that in these times the Holy Spirit “opens horizons, reawakens creativity and renews us in fraternity.”

In another speech, on Sept.1, Pope Francis addressed faithful on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, stating that “the pandemic has brought us to a crossroads.”

“We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life giving,” he said.

He also suggested wealthy countries forgive the national debt of developing nations where people are struggling due to the pandemic and climate change.

Francis will have a chance to address the nations of the world directly on Sept. 15, when he is scheduled to speak to the General Assembly of the United Nations via video conference.

This speech, on the occasion of the U.N.’s 75th anniversary, will likely allow the pontiff to air some of his reflections on the international chessboard.

Pope Francis is in it for the long game, as proved by his call for a meeting with younger generations in his 2015 “Green Encyclical” (“Laudato Si’”), with the hope to promote his vision for the world they will help create. And on Oct. 15, he will speak with Catholic school and university educators during the Global Compact on Education that will take place online.

Investing in young people, the environment and creativity were the key words of Francis’ speech on Friday to European economists and investors, which will likely be reprised in the pope’s upcoming event centered on the economy.

Francis will return to Assisi Nov. 21 for “The Economy of Francis,” an online event that will gather finance and economy students from numerous countries to challenge them to create new economic models that take into consideration the environment and the poor.

Amid the pandemic, racial unrest and growing inequality, there is a mounting sense of urgency that has characterized Pope Francis’ words in recent months, suggesting that, for the Argentine pontiff, the time for waiting is over.

Source: Religion News Service