Pope Francis to Jesuits

Oct 01, 2014

By Gerard O’ Connell
Rome had their eyes fixed on the first Jesuit pope in the history of the Church. There he was, standing in front of the Jesuits, appealing for their full support as he ‘rowed’ in the barque of Peter at a very important but not easy moment in the history of the Church.

He was asking for their prayers and support as he strives hard to govern the universal Church and reform the Roman Curia at a not very easy moment in history, on the eve of a very important synod of bishops on the family, and in a turbulent and violent world where, as he said, it seems a Third World War has already started ‘bit by bit.’

“Let us remember our history: the Society ‘was given the grace not only to believe in the Lord, but also to suffer for him,” the Pope told them in his homily in the church of the Holy Name of Jesus, better known as the Gesu, in the centre of Rome where St Ignatius lived for a time and is buried.

He recalled how Fr Lorenzo Ricci, the Father General of the Society “in those difficult times of persecution” in the late 1700s, had encouraged his Jesuits not to give in to a spirit of despair or victimization, or look for easy compromises. Instead, he had urged the Jesuits in those days of great suffering to “discern the will of God,” “to recognize that they were sinners and to put their trust in Jesus alone, who is their hope” and “gives them consolation,” and to know that “it is love that will judge history, and that hope, even in darkness, is greater than our expectations.”

Pope Francis recalled the suppression of the Jesuit order in Portugal, the Spanish territories, France and other places in the 17th century and how the secular powers — ‘the enemies of the Church’ as John Paul II called them — succeeded in getting Pope Clement XIV to suppress the order. It only survived “under a Lutheran King” (in Prussia) and “under an Orthodox Monarch” (in Russia), he recalled.

Forty years later, on Aug. 7, 1814, Pius VII, a Benedictine pope, on his return to Rome from France where he had witnessed the French revolution and the reign of Napoleon, restored the Jesuit order “to help in an adequate way the spiritual needs of the Christian world without difference of peoples or nations.”

At the time of its suppression, the Society of Jesus had 23,000 members, but when it was restored it had been reduced to a mere 600. “

During the suppression, our brother Jesuits remained fervent in the Spirit and in the service of the Lord, joyful in hope, constant in tribulation, persevering in prayer” and “this honoured the Society,” the Pope said in his homily at this simple, beautiful, deeply spiritual evening service of sung vespers. The Argentine Jesuit Pope recalled that when Pius VII re-established the order, it was made up of “courageous and humble religious” filled with hope, love and apostolic creativity, and immediately became “missionary” and placed itself at the disposition of the Apostolic See. He said it began again its work of “preaching, teaching, spiritual direction, scientific research and social action, the missions and care of the poor, the suffering and the marginalized.”

Moving from the past to the present, Pope Francis praised the Jesuit order today because it is “facing with intelligence and dedication, the tragic problem of the refugees and displaced persons” and “making an effort with discernment to integrate the service of faith and the promotion of justice.”

He recalled “the words” of Paul VI to the Jesuits in 1974:

‘Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme situations, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, where there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, there you have been and there are Jesuits.”

Source: America

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