Pope Francis is to release a new encyclical which is expected to focus on what the world should look like following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 83-year-old Roman Pontiff will travel to Assisi to sign the document, in what will be his first trip outside of Rome since the Coronavirus struck Italy.
His visit to the small Umbrian town is highly symbolic as it is taking place on the feast of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, the saint of poverty, peace and care for creation.
The Vatican said on 5 September that the encyclical will be titled Fratelli tutti, or Brothers all, and will be on “fraternity and social friendship”. The Pope will sign it after saying Mass at the tomb of St Francis, but due to the virus, he will celebrate the liturgy privately, and without anyone present.
Although the encyclical will offer a framework for a more just post-pandemic world, The Tablet understands it has been in preparation since before the emergence of Covid-19.
The encyclical is expected to build on the themes of human fraternity found in the joint declaration signed in Abu Dhabi by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, which calls on religions to work more closely together.
The Pope has made dialogue with other religions a hallmark of his pontificate and has sought to build up relations within the Muslim world.
By travelling to the United Arab Emirates in 2019, he became the first Pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula and has made efforts to channel the spirit of St Francis, who 800 years ago sought to broker a peace with the Sultan of Egypt during the Crusades.
The encyclical, the highest form of papal writing, is likely to cover a broad canvas of issues such as war, globalisation, populism and economics. At a time of growing polarisation in politics, the document could well examine how to tackle fragmentation and inequality.
Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican's editorial director, explained that the title of the new encyclical is found in the writings of St Francis who explained: “Let us all, brothers, consider the Good Shepherd who to save his sheep bore the suffering of the Cross.” While fratelli means brothers, the word is used to cover the whole of humanity.
Fratelli Tutti comes five years after the Pope wrote Laudato si’, a landmark encyclical calling for ecological conversion and which updated the Church's teaching on protecting the environment. Like the new encyclical, it also took a phrase from St Francis as its title, with Laudato si’, Praise be to you, found in the Italian saint's 13th-century song, Canticle of the Sun.
And while Laudato si’ focussed on restoring humanity's relationship with natural world, the new encyclical looks set to offer ways for how human beings can restore relationships with one another.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pope has focussed his energies, and that of the Vatican, on how the Church can respond to crisis. Francis has established a Covid commission which is involved in everything from arranging the distribution of ventilators to calling for a rethink of the global financial system.
In recent weeks, the Pope has been using his Wednesday general audiences to offer a blueprint for world post-Covid, arguing that the virus has exposed social illnesses.
Following the signing of the encyclical on 3 October, the text is expected to be published fairly soon afterwards. Fratelli Tutti will be the third encyclical of his pontificate with the first, Lumen Fidei, published in 2013.