Jean-Pierre Bodjoko, SJ and Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Dakar, Senegal says the new encyclical is a logical progression of what Pope Francis is and what he has taught so far: Simplicity and brotherhood.
On 3 October, Pope Francis signed, in the Italian city of Assisi, his new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti” (All Brothers), on human fraternity. The encyclical was made public on Sunday 4 October 2020.
Pleasant echo for us, where Christians are a minority
“I am not surprised that the Pope invites us to embrace fraternity. He had already given us a signal, when he was elected, by choosing the name of Francis of Assisi. Then, not so long ago, he signed a joint document on human brotherhood, with members of the Al-Azhar University. We can see, moreover, that he mentions, at the beginning of this beautiful encyclical, the visit of Saint Francis of Assisi to the Sultan of Egypt. As we get to know the personality of this Pope better, we are not at all surprised. He is truly staying the path of the choice he made (right at the beginning of this pontificate): Simplicity and brotherhood. These he sees from the point of view of Saint Francis of Assisi, who as you know, is an extraordinary model for us. I, therefore, welcome the publication of this encyclical. Yesterday, in a Senegalese Daily newspaper, here in Dakar, I read the response of a Muslim, named Bakary Samb, who spoke of an African and Muslim response to the encyclical of Pope Francis which invites us to a fraternity without borders. This is to show the importance of such a document already having an echo in communities like ours, where as Christians, we are a minority,” said Archbishop Ndiaye.
Like the Good Samaritan, the encyclical sees only humanity
Reflecting about Senegal where Christians must dialogue with Muslims continually, the Archbishop said the encyclical goes beyond the boundaries of race, ethnicism and all that separates human beings from each other. The key to reading the encyclical is in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
“Indeed, the encyclical is like balm to the heart. It all starts from the time the Holy Father first co-signed a document with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and now this. These documents give us and confirms for us the foundation of our inter-religious dialogue in Senegal. From this perspective, too, the impact of this encyclical is important to us. Nevertheless, I must admit that I initially expected a document on Christian fraternity. Still, I see that the Pope preferred to cast the net wider, he did not want to be confined to just the particular challenges of Christians but to look at the bigger picture. And so, I think the key to his encyclical remains the parable of the Good Samaritan which goes beyond the borders of race, ethnicity and social contempt. We are all called to reach out to everyone who is in need regardless of who they are or what they believe in. This is what the Pope invites us to do; to take a look at the needs of my sister and my brother, simply because we are brothers and sisters in our humanity. As a Bishop, I met in France, once said to me, ‘We are companions in our shared humanity.’ The idea of the Good Samaritan had already inspired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to write his equally beautiful encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. Our way to God is one that leads us to the other -the way through the brother whom I must love. Having said that, I might have expected a few words about Christian brotherhood, about Christ who is the eldest of a multitude of brothers, about Christ saying that you are all brothers and sisters, and so on. However, as I have said earlier, I recognise the fact that the Pope wanted to have a broader spectrum. This, in turn, meant that the Pope could not enter too deeply into aspects that are specifically and peculiar only to Christianity. From this point of view, his encyclical is universal and more open and is an encyclical that pays great attention to social situations of the world. I welcome this approach with great interest and enthusiasm. It is an encyclical that will do us a lot of good,” emphasised the prelate of Dakar.
Tolerance is a bit out of fashion: We accept and welcome.
Asked further, by Vatican News, if the encyclical would enhance dialogue and tolerance among the different faiths, the Archbishop responded:
“The word “tolerance” is a bit out of fashion. In the local jargon here in Senegal, for example, we do not like that word, because it’s as if, you have to put up with the other person for being who they are. In other words, you simply tolerate them. No, we do not tolerate. We accept and welcome the other with their differences because that is what makes us rich. So, the Pope really invites us to fraternal peace. In the New Testament, I really like the word “Philadelphia” which means brotherly love. And this love comes from the fact that we all have the same origin, we all descend from the same creator, who made us brothers and sisters in humanity. For this, we do more than tolerate each other, we welcome each other in esteem, reciprocity, and mutual help in love,” said Archbishop Ndiaye.