Pope Francis greets religious as he leaves the hermitage and cell of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, in this Oct. 4, 2013, file photo. The Pope plans to visit Assisi on Oct. 3 to sign his new encyclical on human fraternity. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope’s fall agenda includes new encyclical

By 
  • September 9, 2020

VATICAN CITY -- While the COVID-19 pandemic has put the brakes on most foreign travel and many in-person meetings, Pope Francis still has some major events on his fall 2020 agenda.

The United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary with the opening of its annual General Assembly Sept. 15 and Pope Francis is expected to be among the world leaders addressing the assembly with a pre-recorded video.

The key date on his calendar, however, is Oct. 3, the day he will travel to Assisi in central Italy to celebrate a private Mass and sign his new social encyclical on the practical obligations that flow from “human fraternity” or all people being brothers and sisters by virtue of being created by God.

The Vatican press office said the document will be titled Fratelli Tutti in Italian. In English, the phrase could be translated as “Brothers and Sisters All,” but apparently it is inspired by what is known as St. Francis of Assisi’s “sixth admonition” to the friars, all of whom were men.

Conventual Franciscan Fr. Mauro Gambetti, custodian of the Assisi convent, said the document “will indicate to the world a style for the future and will give the Church and people of goodwill the responsibility for building it together.”

“The Pope is clearly inspired by Francis of Assisi who, in following Jesus, recognized in fraternity, lived under the sign of mutual and loving service, the horizon of a fulfilled and happy humanity,” Gambetti added.

Two other major texts are rumoured to be on the Pope’s desk awaiting final approval: the apostolic constitution on the reorganization of the Roman Curia; and the long-promised report on how Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was able to advance so far in the Church despite allegations of sexual misconduct and even sexual abuse of minors.

The Vatican ordered McCarrick’s removal from ministry in June 2018 after an investigation found credible allegations that he sexually abused minors. A month later, Pope Francis accepted his resignation and in February 2019 the Pope dismissed him from the priesthood.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no foreign papal trips on the books. The trips take months to plan and organize, including advance visits by the chief trip organizer, Vatican security and the papal master of liturgical ceremonies.

The Vatican had announced a papal trip to Malta and Gozo for May 31, but the trip was cancelled due to the pandemic and no new date has been announced. He also was expected to go to Budapest, Hungary, for at least one day of the International Eucharist Congress Sept. 13-20, but COVID caused the congress to be postponed a year.

As of Sept. 2, the Pope has resumed holding his weekly general audience with visitors and pilgrims present. The event, for the time being, is held in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace with about 600 people present. The Vatican has not said when he will resume inviting a small congregation to his weekday morning Masses.

There is little or no chance Pope Francis will announce new cardinals in 2020. In addition to the pandemic making a gathering of cardinals almost impossible, the College of Cardinals will have more than its limit of 120 members under the age of 80 until Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, retired archbishop of Washington, celebrates his birthday Nov. 12.

However, big changes could be on the horizon for close to a dozen cardinals who work in the Roman Curia or hold senior posts. While cardinals can vote in a conclave until they are 80, they are required to offer their resignations at 75. Pope Francis can and does ask some cardinals to continue in office, but with or without a document on curia reform, some of the long serving prelates are likely to step down.

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