Cardinal Parolin’s Talk at Event on ‘Fratelli Tutti’

Fraternity, Multilateralism, and Peace

cardinal event
Fraternity © Cathopic. Browsing

On Thursday, April 15, 2021, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, addressed the virtual event entitled “Fraternity, Multilateralism, and Peace: A Presentation of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter ‘Fratelli Tutti’

 Among the event’s promoters were the Holy See’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva and the International Catholic Migration Commission.

In order to clarify the concept of fraternity, discussed in the encyclical, the Secretary of State referred to the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate when no sooner he was elected, he said: “Let us always pray for ourselves: for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, so that there may be great fraternity.” “All the subsequent actions and activities of the pontificate, have been a natural and consistent consequence of a path oriented to this,” he continued.

A year after the start of the pandemic, “we see how this programmatic criterion is decisive, if we wish to overcome the present dichotomy between ‘the code of efficiency’ and the ‘code of solidarity.’”

In fact, the Cardinal said, “fraternity spurs us to an even more exacting and inclusive ‘code’”: “Whereas solidarity is the principle of social planning, which enables the unequal to become equal, fraternity enables the equal to be different persons. Fraternity enables people that are equal in their essence, dignity, liberty, and fundamental rights, to take part in different ways in the common good in keeping with their capacity, their plan of life, their vocation, their work, or their charism of service.”

In his talk, the Cardinal shared some reflections on the principal issues that are the competence of the organizations present and the priorities of the Holy See in these matters: “access to health, refugees, work, International Humanitarian Law and disarmament.”

Here is a translation of the Secretary of State’s full address.

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Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s Address


Esteemed Civil Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I am especially happy for the invitation to take part in a meeting of reflection on the Encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” which enjoys the participation of some eminent General Directors present in international Geneva. Your commitment to multilateralism, as well as that of the Ambassadors present here, is a privileged way to promote the common good of the human family and of developing original ideas and innovative strategies, “so that with greater creative boldness, new and sustainable solutions are found.”[1]

 In order to understand fully the concept of fraternity and its declension in the multilateral diplomatic action of the Holy See, it might be useful to go back to the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate. It will be recalled that the first subject to which the Pope referred on the day of his election, over eight years ago, was when he expressed this desire: “Let us always pray for ourselves: for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, so that there may be great fraternity.”[2] All the pontificate’s subsequent actions and activities have been a natural and consistent consequence of a path oriented to this.

A year after the start of the pandemic, we see how this programmatic criterion is decisive if we want to overcome the present dichotomy between “the code of efficiency” and the “code of solidarity.”[3] In fact, fraternity drives us to an even more demanding and inclusive “code”: Whereas solidarity is the principle of social planning, which enables the unequal to become equal, fraternity enables the equal to be different persons. Fraternity enables people that are equal in their essence, dignity, liberty, and in their fundamental rights, to take part in different ways in the common good according to their capacity, their plan of life, their vocation, their work or their charism of service.”[4]

 In multilateral action, fraternity is translated into courage and generosity to establish freely certain common objectives and to ensure the whole world’s compliance with some essential norms, in virtue of the Latin locution pacta sunt servanda, by which there is the desire to fulfil the legitimately manifested will, of resolving controversies through the means offered by diplomacy, negotiation, multilateral institutions, and the broader desire to obtain “the care of a truly universal common good and the protection of the weakest States.”[5]

From this brief premise on fraternity, I would like to take advantage of the occasion to share some reflections on the principal subjects of competence of the organizations you represent and the Holy See’s priorities in these matters: access to health, refugees, work, International Humanitarian Law and disarmament.

In the realm of health, over the past year, the human family has felt an indissoluble bond that “for a time awakened the consciousness of being a global community that navigates in the same boat, where the ill of one hurts all.”[6] This human sentiment in face of the unknown has rapidly given way to a race for vaccines and treatments at the national level, which has manifested the gap in access to basic care between the developed countries and the rest of the world.[7] In face of a systematic problem, such as barriers of access to assistance, aggravated by the present emergency, the Holy See has given a series of guidelines to address this question, inspired by the conviction of the importance of fraternity. We must focus at all times on the underlying principle of service to the common good. This focus is well exemplified by Saint John Paul II and his insistence on the “social mortgage,” which emphasizes the universal destiny of goods. [8] From this perspective, the International Community has the obligation to guarantee that any vaccine and treatment against COVID-19 is safe, available, accessible, and affordable for all those that need them.

The concern for the neediest and those that are in a vulnerable situation, in particular the refugees, the migrants, and the internally displaced is not only a testimony of fraternity but proof of attention to the real needs of our brothers and sisters. The Pope’s incessant appeals to leaders and to International Organizations for a new globalization of solidarity, which is able to supply for others’ indifference, are a constant repeated systematically in the Encyclical. Refugees have always been a part of history. Unfortunately, still today, their number and suffering continue being a wound in the social fabric of the International Community. In the year in which the 70th anniversary is celebrated of the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (ACNUR), we continue observing with pain that the number of people seeking protection is increasing inexorably. This entails profound humanitarian and social problems.[9] In this connection, the Holy See makes its own the underlying vision of the Global Compact on refugees, which intends to reinforce international cooperation through a more equitable and foreseeable distribution of responsibility, reminding at the same time that the ideal and most complete solution is to guarantee the right of all to live and prosper with dignity, peace, and security in their countries of origin.

Over the last months, the containment strategies of the pandemic adopted worldwide have had a significant impact on workers, including informal workers, small businessmen, and merchants, which have seen their savings depleted and have often faced systematic barriers to access basic health care. In today’s world, the traditional format of social dialogue must be enlarged and be more inclusive for the good of processes of construction of peace. The participation of worker’s and businessmen’s organizations is crucial but must be complemented with actors that represent the informal economy and environmental concerns. As Fratelli Tutti reminds us, “we have to think of social, political and economic participation “ in a way that “includes popular movements and encourages local, national and international government structures with that torrent of moral energy that arises from the incorporation of the excluded in the construction of the common destiny.”[10]

Perhaps not many know that Mr. Henry Dunant (1828-1910), founder of the Red Cross, intensely affected by the violence perpetrated and the disorganization of aid to the wounded, also adopted the cry “Fratelli Tutti,” to convince the local population and volunteers to help regardless of their affiliation to the parties in conflict.[11] It was in fact because of that tragic experience that Mr Dunant conceived the Red Cross. Today, unfortunately, it is urgent to reinforce the diffusion and promotion of respect for Humanitarian Law, which intends to safeguard humanity’s essential principles in a context, that of war, which is in itself inhuman and de-humanizing, protecting the civil population and banning arms that inflict such atrocious, as well as futile, suffering. It can also be said that the universality of the 1949 Geneva Conventions represents an implicit recognition of the bond of brotherhood that unites peoples, and at least the necessity to put limitations to conflicts. Moreover, aware of the omissions and hesitations, the Holy See hopes that States can come up with new approaches to International Humanitarian Law, to take adequately into account the characteristics of contemporary armed conflicts and the physical, moral and spiritual suffering that accompany them,[12] in order to eliminate conflicts completely.

The desire for peace, security, and stability is one of the most profound desires of the human heart, as it is rooted in the Creator, who makes all peoples members of the human family. This aspiration can never be filled only by military means, and much less so by the possession of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.[13] Conflicts always cause suffering, certainly in those that suffer them, but also in those that combat them. It’s not rhetorical to affirm that war is the antithesis of fraternity. In this connection, the Holy See encourages with conviction States’ commitment in the realm of disarmament and control of arms to reach lasting agreements in the path to peace and, in a particular way, on the front of nuclear disarmament. If the affirmation that we are all brothers is valid, how can nuclear dissuasion be the basis of an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between peoples? Observed are some encouraging signs, such as the recent coming into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, the enormous sums of money and human resources dedicated to armament give food for thought. To link national security to the accumulation of arms is a counterproductive logic. The disproportion between material resources and human talents dedicated to the service of death, and the resources dedicated to the service of life, is a cause of scandal. The challenges facing the International Community are very different and, as such, should be the priorities of States.[14]

Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Those that I have just pointed out are only some indications of the methods and challenges that the human family is facing. Indications and objectives that the Holy See, in line with the perspectives renewed by Pope Francis with the Encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” considers indispensable for an action that is adequate and protagonist in regard to the processes that occur in the International Community. We are aware that to address the proposed scenario it’s not enough to proclaim the commitment or be limited to encourage efforts, recall duties or contribute to the action to respond concretely to the great challenges.[15]

Hence the necessity, no longer to address, but to prepare a project, which is able to respond to what comes later.[16] In this perspective, the juridical system no longer needs only common norms, but the latter must be efficient and effective in regard to present situations. The additional element is individual responsibility and the capacity to feel ourselves brothers, that is, to make our own the needs of others through reciprocity of relationships that overcomes isolation and involves States, individuals, and International Organizations. Pope Francis’ incitement calls increasingly for a presence and conduct that responds to the actuality of relations between States and between peoples, especially when attitudes seem to prevail that abandon the vision of the common good.

I hope that this event will be a step forward so that we all undertake the path of fraternity, which is so rich as well as demanding.

Thank you very much

[1] Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, January 11, 2016.

[2] Francis, First Greeting, March 13, 2013, in

[3] Francis, Message to Professor Margaret Archer, President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, on the occasion of its Plenary Assembly, April 24, 2017.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Francis, Encyclical Letter “Fratelli Tutti,” n. 174.

[6] Ibid.,  n. 32.

[7] As Dr. Ghebreyesus , Director General of the World Health Organization, as well as of the Executive Committee reminded last January, “”the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.” Dr. Tedros Ashanom Ghebreyesus, Address to the 148th meeting of WHO’s Executive Board, January 18, 2021.

[8] The goods of this world were originally destined to all. The right to private property is valid and necessary, but does not cancel the value of this principle. In fact, it imprints on it “a social mortgage,” that is, it has as an intrinsic quality, a social function founded and justified precisely on the principle of the universal destiny of goods.” Saint John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 42.

[9] The Holy See, State Member of ACNUR”s Executive Committee, was among the first 26 countries that took part in the Conference of Plenipotentiaries of July 1951, which gave place to one of the most important Conventions for the International Community: the Convention on the Status of Refugees. This Convention, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, has contributed to protect and to give hope to many people, victims of conflicts or persecutions. In a certain sense, the recognition and concession of international protection imply an implicit recognition that we are brothers and sisters members of the same human family.

[10] Francis, Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti,” n. 169.

[11] Cf. H. Dunant, A Memory of Solferino (1859).

[12] Cf. Francis, Address to the Participants in the International Conference on Humanitarian Law, October 28, 2017.

[13] Cf. Francis, Message to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Atomic Arms, December 7, 2014.

[14] In this respect, as Pope Francis affirms, “the present state of our planet calls, for its part, for a serious reflection on how all these resources could be used, with reference to the complex and difficult implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and thus reach the objectives, such as integral human development.” Address on Nuclear Weapons, Nagasaki, November 24, 2019.

[15] To this end, the Pope gives us an indicator that can be a solid orientation: “Therefore, it is necessary above all to reject the culture of rejection and care for persons and peoples suffering the most painful inequalities, through an endeavor that is able to privilege with patience solidary processes in regard to the egoism of contingent interests” (Address to the Participants in the International Symposium Organized by the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development on Disarmament, November 10, 2017).

[16] “The crisis of politics and of democratic values also affects the international level, with repercussions on all the multilateral system and the obvious consequence that organizations thought out to foster peace and development – on the basis of Law and not of the “law of the strongest” – see their efficacy compromised. It can certainly not be omitted that, in the course of the last years, the multilateral system has also manifested some limitations. The pandemic is an occasion, which cannot be missed, to think and take forward organic reforms so that International Organizations recover their essential vocation to serve the human family, to preserve the life of every person and peace.” (Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, February 8, 2021).