Faith and Spirituality

At the Vatican, Nobel laureates join Pope Francis in fraternity appeal

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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At the Vatican, Nobel laureates join Pope Francis in fraternity appeal

POPE'S WORDS. Cardinal Mauro Gambetti reads a message from Pope Francis at the first World Meeting on Human Fraternity at Saint Peter's Square, June 10, 2023. Behind Gambetti, on the right side, is the Philippines' first Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Screenshot from Vatican News

The Philippines’ first Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, joins 29 other laureates in the first World Meeting on Human Fraternity at Saint Peter's Square

MANILA, Philippines – Thirty Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, joined Pope Francis in appealing for closer brotherhood and sisterhood to prevent war, sexual violence, forced migration, and the manipulation of artificial intelligence (AI).

The Pope, who was supposed to physically join the Nobel laureates but was still confined in the hospital after undergoing surgery, sent a message calling for human fraternity – one of his most frequent appeals and also a key to understanding his decade-old pontificate.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureates gathered at Saint Peter’s Square on Saturday, June 10, for the first World Meeting on Human Fraternity. During the ceremony, the Nobel winners presented the landmark Declaration on Human Fraternity, which they drafted earlier that day. The declaration was then signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.

At the Vatican, Nobel laureates join Pope Francis in fraternity appeal

“We want to shout to the world in the name of fraternity: Never again war! It is peace, justice, equality that guide the fate of all mankind. No to fear, no to sexual and domestic violence! All armed conflicts must come to an end. We say no more nuclear weapons, no more land mines. No more forced migrations, ethnic cleansing, dictatorships, corruption, and slavery,” the Declaration on Human Fraternity read.

“Let us stop the manipulation of technology and AI. Let us put fraternity before technological development, so that it may permeate it,” it added.

The Nobel laureates then called on “all women and men of goodwill” – a phrased commonly used in the Catholic Church to refer to believers and nonbelievers alike – “to embrace our appeal to fraternity.”

“Our children, our future can only thrive in a world of peace, justice, and equality, to the benefit of the single human family: only fraternity can generate humanity,” they said. (Read the full declaration below.)

FULL TEXT: ‘Declaration on Human Fraternity’ drafted by Nobel laureates at the Vatican

FULL TEXT: ‘Declaration on Human Fraternity’ drafted by Nobel laureates at the Vatican

In his own message for the event, Francis said, “The question to ask ourselves is not what society and the world can give me, but what can I give to my brothers and sisters.” The Pope called for an end to war and stressed that “brothers and sisters are the anchor of truth in the stormy sea of conflicts that spread falsehood.”

“When people and societies choose fraternity, policies also change: The person once again takes precedence over profit and the home we all inhabit over the environment to be exploited for one’s own interests. A just wage is paid for work, welcome becomes wealth, life becomes hope, justice opens up to reparation, and the memory of evil done is healed in the encounter between victims and perpetrators,” he said.

With the theme “Not Alone,” the World Meeting on Human Fraternity was convened by the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, established by Francis in December 2021 and inspired by his landmark encyclical on human fraternity, Fratelli Tutti.

‘Fraternity’: Key to understanding Francis

The call for a human fraternity, or a deeper sense of brotherhood and sisterhood among the world’s peoples, is one of the distinguishing features of the Francis papacy.

The Pope’s core ideas on human fraternity are enshrined in the encyclical or papal letter Fratelli Tutti, published on October 3, 2020. The Pope said “fratelli tutti,” an Italian phrase that literally means “brothers all,” was the way Saint Francis of Assisi “addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel.”

The life of Francis of Assisi, a saint known for abandoning his riches for a life of poverty, is an important window into the mind of Pope Francis. The first Latin American pope, who was once Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, was the first pontiff to choose the name “Francis” as inspired by the saint from Assisi.

In Fratelli Tutti, Francis criticized populism, rejected the death penalty by overturning a centuries-old teaching, and condemned “globalization and progress without a shared roadmap” as well as “digital campaigns of hatred and destruction.”

“How important it is to dream together…. By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together,” the Pope said in Fratelli Tutti, quoting from his 2019 speech in Macedonia.

“Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all,” the Pope said. 

Five years before issuing Fratelli Tutti, the Pope released the encyclical Laudato Si, an unprecedented papal document that addressed climate change. 

The encyclical drew its name from the Italian phrase “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore,” or “praise be to you, my Lord,” which Francis of Assisi used in his Canticle of the Creatures, a prayer to thank God for the gifts of creation. Francis of Assisi is also known for his love for the environment.

The Pope said in Laudato Si’, “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.