Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In his newest encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” Pope Francis talks about the many different ways and circumstances in which we are called to show our love for our sisters and brothers throughout the world. In the spirit of his namesake, St. Francis, the Holy Father challenges us to a way of life marked by the “flavor of the Gospel” — one that values every person’s God-given human dignity.
To help convey his message, the pope offers an extended reflection in his letter on one of my favorite Gospel stories: the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). You remember the story: Robbers attack a man walking along a road and leave him for dead. First a priest, and then a Levite, pass by. It is a Samaritan — someone considered an enemy — who is moved by compassion to stop and help the man, bandage his wounds and pay for his care at an inn. I wrote about this parable five years ago in my pastoral letter on mercy. The Good Samaritan shows us what mercy looks like. It requires not just knowing the right thing to do — but also doing it. Jesus told this parable in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is that our neighbor is anyone we meet who needs our care, even if this requires sacrificing our own time, comfort and resources.
I believe this is the essence of the message Pope Francis wants to convey in “Fratelli Tutti,” and it is a message very much needed today. He does not mince words. Too often, our politics, economics and communications are marked by a selfish individualism and isolation. This contributes to the throwaway culture that fail s to recognize the human dignity and needs of children in the womb, the elderly, the prisoner and migrants searching for a better life. It exacerbates the ongoing problems of racism, human trafficking and environmental degradation.
The pope is calling every person and every society to reject this throwaway culture and recognize Christ in every person. None of us is perfect, and we are often tempted to act like the passers-by in the Good Samaritan story. We are busy with our own lives. We don’t want to get involved. We can even be judgmental. But the Holy Father challenges us to be like the one who stops to show mercy, compassion and respect to our brothers and sisters — no matter where they are from, their race or religion, or their abilities or circumstances of life. This is how we bring about a society marked by the “flavor of the Gospel.”
I encourage you to read and study this letter by Pope Francis and to take action in your own life to help bring about a culture of love, friendship and understanding. You can read the encyclical in English at https://bit.ly/2SYnxDj and Spanish at https://bit.ly/377N6tT.
An additional note
Around this time of year, we typically publish the Diocese of St. Cloud’s annual report in the pages of the magazine. As you know, the diocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization back in June. In light of this, all information about the financial condition of the diocese has been disclosed as part of the publicly available reorganization proceedings. Information regarding the proceedings is available at http://stcdio.org/reorganization.
May you and your loved ones have a blessed Thanksgiving.
+ Bishop Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud
Photo: Volunteers help families during a food drive. (CNS photo/Lia Salinas, Archdiocese of Baltimore)