Pope Francis on Monday paid a visit to the 36th Jesuit General Congregation taking place in Rome. He addressed his Jesuit brothers – who elected the new Jesuit Superior General, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, during this General Congregation – telling them that Church needs them, “As my predecessors have often told you, the Church needs you, counts on you and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach, or find it difficult to reach” he said.
Please find below the Jesuit General Curia’s synthesis of Pope Francis’ address in English:
Rome – October 24, 2016. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, this morning visited members of General Congregation 36 at the Jesuit General Curia. Welcoming the Holy Father to the Aula of the Congregation, Father General Arturo Sosa said, “Dear Pope Francis, in the name of the Society of Jesus meeting in the GC36 I welcome you to this Aula. Thank you for coming to our house. This meeting occurs in a very important moment of the GC36. We are discerning about the issues proposed by the whole Society.”
While the Holy Father cannot participate in the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, he can request that Society consider certain matters of greater importance with regard to mission.
The Holy Father began his address by recalling messages of his predecessors to previous General Congregations. He thus started by saying, “While praying over what I would like to say, I remembered with particular affection the words of Pope Paul VI to us as we came to the end of the 32nd General Congregation: “This is the way, this is the way, Brothers and Sons. Forward, in nomine Domini. Let us walk together, free, obedient, united to each other in the love of Christ, for the greater glory of God.”
The Holy Father also referred to the message of Pope Benedict XVI to members of General Congregation 35 in 2008, saying, “As my predecessors have often told you, the Church needs you, counts on you and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach, or find it difficult to reach.” He reminded the Jesuits that their mission is to walk together with the Pope, “free and obedient – going to the peripheries where others do not reach, under Jesus’ gaze and looking to the horizon which is the ever greater glory of God, who ceaselessly surprises us.” He noted that the vocation of a Jesuit is “to travel through the world and to live in any part of it where there is hope of greater service to God and of help of souls,” [Constitutions, 304]. The Holy Father reminisced that one of the early Jesuits, Jerome Nadal, used to say, “For the Society the whole world is our home.”
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis reminded the Society of Jesus about the importance that Saint Ignatius of Loyola placed on the works of mercy. “Works of mercy – caring for the sick in hospitals, begging for alms, sharing, teaching catechism to children, and the patient suffering of insults… are the daily bread of Ignatius and his first companions. They took care that none of these became obstacles!” The Pope noted, “The Jubilee of Mercy is an appropriate time to reflect about the works of mercy. I am saying it in plural, because mercy is not an abstract word, but a lifestyle that places concrete gestures before the word. These gestures touch the flesh of the neighbour and become institutionalised in works of mercy.”
The Holy Father reminded members of General Congregation 36 that the Society of Jesus has the important mission of bringing consolation and joy in the lives of the people of God. “We can always take a step forward asking insistently for consolation. In the two Apostolic Exhortations and in Laudato Si, I consistently underlined the importance of joy. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us to contemplate ‘the office of consolation,’ which is the work of the Risen Christ Himself. This is the true work of the Society: to console the faithful people of God and to help them through discernment so that the enemy of human nature does not rob us of our joy: the joy of evangelising, the joy of the family, the joy of the Church, the joy of creation.”
Historically, whenever Jesuits have gathered for a General Congregation, they have requested an audience with the Holy Father. It is an opportunity for the Holy Father to directly give a mission to the Society of Jesus in accordance with the fourth vow, the vow of obedience to the Holy Father in matters of mission, which many Jesuits profess.
From the foundation of the Society, Ignatius Loyola and the early companions desired to make themselves available to the Pope for missioning.
For members of General Congregation 36 who are in the midst of discerning the mission of the Society of Jesus within the larger mission of the Church, the audience with the Holy Father, to whom Jesuits have a special vow of obedience, was an important moment.
The original text of Pope Francis’ address in Spanish can be found here. The Curia’s English translation of the speech can be found here.