Pontiff to Jesuits: Church Needs People of Solid Faith

New Superior Congratulates Pope for Feast of Chair of St. Peter

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged Jesuits to continue their God-given mission "in full fidelity to the original charism," within the ecclesial and social context of today.



The Pope made this recommendation today when he received in audience the participants of the Jesuit general congregation, accompanied by their newly elected superior general, Father Adolfo Nicolás. The general congregation has been meeting in Rome since Jan. 7.

"The Church," the Holy Father said, "urgently needs persons of solid and deep faith, of serious culture, and of genuine human and social sensitivity; [it needs] priests and religious who dedicate their lives to living at the margins in order to bear witness and help further the understanding that there is a profound harmony between faith and reason, between evangelical spirit and a thirst for justice and dedication to peace."

The Pontiff encouraged the Society of Jesus, "faithful to its best tradition," to "continue forming its members with great attention to the sciences and to virtue, without conforming to mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and dialogue in very diverse social and cultural situations with the different mentalities of today’s world is one of the most difficult and costly there is."

"In the attempt to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or who have difficulty in accepting its positions and messages," he said, "you must loyally take charge of the Church’s fundamental right to remain faithful to its mandate and adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the magisterium’s charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety."

Institutions

Benedict XVI added that “this holds true not only for the vow of each Jesuit."

And he explained: "As you work as members of an apostolic body, you have to also remain attentive that your works and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and so that many others might share your ideals and might effectively and enthusiastically join with you, collaborating in your vow of service to God and as human beings.

"The themes that are debated and questioned today, such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family, should be considered in the context of contemporary reality, maintaining, however, that harmony with the magisterium that avoids the provocation of confusion and uncertainty in the people of God."

The Holy Father encouraged the Jesuits to “continue and to renew” their mission among and with the poor. “For us," he said, “the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel."

Besides making the “effort to understand and fight the structural causes” of injustice and poverty, he added, “it is necessary to fight the deep roots of evil in the very heart of the human being, the sin that separates us from God, without forgetting to care for the most urgent needs of others in Christ’s spirit of charity."

Finally, referring to the spiritual exercises, “which from its origins have characterized your Society," the Pope asked that the priests “continue making them a precious and effective instrument for the spiritual growth of souls. [...] The spiritual exercises represent a particularly precious journey and method for seeking and encountering the face of God in and around us and in all things, for coming to know his will and putting it into practice."

Seeking service

Before Benedict XVI's discourse to the members of the Society of Jesus, the congregation's new leader, Father Nicolás, addressed the Pope.

"Our general congregation, to which Your Holiness has given your paternal encouragement, is looking, in prayer and in discernment, for the ways through which the Society can renew its commitment to the service of the Church and of humanity," Father Nicolás said. "What inspires and impels us is the Gospel and the Spirit of Christ: If the Lord Jesus was not at the center of our life, we would have no sense of our apostolic activity, we would have no reason for our existence."

The superior-general continued: "In communion with the Church and guided by the magisterium, we seek to dedicate ourselves to profound service, to discernment, to research.

"The generosity with which so many Jesuits work for the kingdom of God, even to giving their very lives for the Church, does not mitigate the sense of responsibility that the Society feels it has in the Church. […] Alongside the sense of responsibility, must go humility, recognizing that the mystery of God and of man is much greater than our capacity for understanding."

Father Nicolás said that "it saddens us, Holy Father, when the inevitable deficiencies and superficialities of some among us are at times used to dramatize and represent as conflicts and clashes what are often only manifestations of limits and human imperfections, or inevitable tensions of everyday life."

"But," he continued, "all this does not discourage us, nor quell our passion, not only to serve the Church, but also, with a deeper sense of our roots, according to the spirit of the Ignatian tradition, to love the hierarchical Church and the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.

The Jesuit superior said the members of the Society considered it a "happy and significant circumstance" that their meeting today with the Pope occurred on the eve of Friday's feast of the Chair of St. Peter, "a day of prayer and of union with the Pope and his highest service of universal teaching authority."

"For this," he concluded, "we offer you our good wishes."