ROME, JAN. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Church is counting on the Society of Jesus to play a role in restoring the sense of Church among religious families, says a Vatican official.
Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said this today during a liturgy opening the 35th General Congregation of the Jesuits.
The Jesuits are gathered in Rome to evaluate their mission in today's world, as well as elect a new superior-general to succeed Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 79, who plans to submit his resignation.
"Within your charism and your tradition you can find valuable points of reference to enlighten the choices which the Society must make today," Cardinal Rode told them. "Your work must be eminently apostolic with a universal human, ecclesial and evangelical fullness.
"It must always be carried out in the light of your charism, in such a way that the growing participation of laity in your activities does not obscure your identity but rather enriches it with the collaboration of those who, coming from other cultures, share your style and your objectives."
The Vatican prefect spoke particularly about the role of the Jesuits in restoring the "sensus Ecclesiae."
"Consecration to service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration to service to the Church," he said. "It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the 'sentire cum ecclesia' of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the 'sensus Ecclesiae.'"
The cardinal said that love for the Church is based on faith, not sentiment.
"Love for the Church in every sense of the word -- be it Church people of God, be it hierarchical Church -- is not a human sentiment which comes and goes according to the people who make it up or according to our conformity with the dispositions emanating from those whom the Lord has placed to direct the Church," he explained. "Love for the Church is a love based on faith, a gift of the Lord which, precisely because he loves us, he gives us faith in him and in his Spouse, which is the Church. Without the gift of faith in the Church there can be no love for the Church."
The 73-year-old cardinal also noted a "growing distancing from the hierarchy."
"The Ignatian spirituality of apostolic service 'under the Roman Pontiff' does not allow for this separation," he said. "Religious obedience can be understood only as obedience in love. The fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in uniting the love for God with love for the hierarchical Church."
Banner of the cross
Cardinal Rode acknowledged the role of suffering and detachment in apostolic service.
"Every service done out of love necessarily implies a self-emptying, a kenosis," he said. "But letting go of what one wants to do in order to do what the beloved wants is to transform the kenosis into the image of Christ who learned obedience through suffering. It is for this reason that St. Ignatius, realistically, adds that the Jesuit serves the Church 'under the banner of the cross.'"
The cardinal said he wished to draw attention to one of the "new and urgent" necessities faced by the Church today.
"I will mention one," he said, "which in my judgment is urgent today and is at the same time complex and I propose it for your consideration. It is the need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition.
"The doctrinal diversity of those who at all levels, by vocation and mission are called to announce the kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits. There is one truth, even though it can always be more deeply known."
Cardinal Rode said the living teaching office of the Church "is the voucher for revealed truth."
He added: "The exegetes and theological scholars are involved in working together 'under the watchful care of the sacred teaching office of the Church, to an exploration and exposition of the divine writings.'
"Through your long and solid formation, your centers of research, your teaching in the philosophical-theological-biblical fields, you are in a privileged position to carry out this difficult mission. Carry it out with study and in-depth examination, carry it out with humility, carry it out with faith in the Church. Carry it out with love for the Church.
"May those who, according to your legislation, have to oversee the doctrine of your magazines and publications do so in the light of and according to the 'rules for "sentire cum ecclesia,"' with love and respect."
Faith and culture
The cardinal also mentioned the "feeling of ever growing separation between faith and culture, a separation which constitutes a great impediment for evangelization," saying this is another phenomenon that worries him.
"A culture immersed with a true Christian spirit is an instrument which fosters the spreading of the Gospel, faith in God the creator of the heavens and of the earth," he said. "The tradition of the Society, from the first beginnings of the Collegio Romano always placed itself at the crossroads between Church and society, between faith and culture, between religion and secularism.
"Recover these avant-garde positions which are so necessary to transmit the eternal truth to today's world, in today's language. Do not abandon this challenge. We know the task is difficult, uncomfortable and risky, and at times little appreciated and even misunderstood, but it is a necessary task for the Church."