I don’t think Pope Francis is recognized enough for his skill as a theologian. It is the Pope Emeritus who is, rightly, widely recognized as possessing a brilliant theological mind. Francis, on the other hand, is seen as the great pastor, or, as Austen Ivereigh recently put it, “the world’s spiritual director.” I have definitely been pastored by the pope. I’ve said often that if it wasn’t for Pope Francis showing me the mercy and grace of God our Father I don’t know if I’d still be Catholic.
However, there are moments when I think Francis teaches a particularly brilliant theological point. If he were just a theologian I’d call it clever, but since he’s the pope I’ll say it’s inspired. His particular theological insights, I believe, come from his ability to read the signs of the times. His keen sense of what is really wrong in the Church and the world. Here I think of his teachings about pastoral accompaniment and neo-pelagianism (and there’s a lot I’ve written about them), but in this article I want to focus on a novel theological turn Francis made in Fratelli Tutti concerning immigration.
The plight of migrants and refugees has been one of the pope’s main talking points throughout his pontificate. Francis is very aware of rising xenophobia and Nationalism around the globe as well as a growing fear and scapegoating of immigrants and refugees, so he addresses the rights of migrants head-on. However, the way he explains those rights in Fratelli Tutti is something I’ve never seen before in Catholic Social Teaching.