Saturday, January 19, 2008

Letter To Kolvenbach from Pope Benedict XVI

English Translation of Pope Benedict XVI letter to the Jesuit Superior General

To the Reverend Father


Superior General of the Society of Jesus

On the occasion of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, it
is my fervent desire to extend to you and to all those taking part in the Assembly
my most cordial greetings, together with an assurance of my affection and of my
constant spiritual nearness to you. I know how important for the life of the Society
is this event which you are celebrating, and I further know that, consequently, it
has been prepared with great care. This is a providential occasion for impressing
upon the Society of Jesus that renewed ascetic and apostolic impulse which is
wished by all, so that Jesuits might fulfill completely their mission and confront the
challenges of the modern world with that faith to Christ and to the Church which
distinguished the prophetic action of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and his first

The Apostle writes to the faithful of Thessalonica of having announced to
them the gospel of God, “encouraging you and imploring you” — Paul specifies —
“to comport yourselves in a manner worthy of God who calls you to his kingdom
and to his glory” (1 Th. 2:12), and he adds: “Indeed on account of this we
continually thank God because, having received the divine word preached by us,
you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as the word of God,
which works in you who believe” (1 Th. 2:13). The word of God therefore is first
“received”, i.e., heard, and then — penetrating all the way to the heart — it is
“welcomed”, and who receives it recognizes that God speaks through the agent sent
to deliver it: in this way the word acts in believers. As then, so even today
evangelization demands a total and faithful adhesion to the word of God: adhesion
first of all to Christ and to attentive listening to his Spirit which guides the Church;
humble obedience to the Pastors whom God has placed to guide his people; and
prudent and frank dialogue with the social, cultural, and religious appeals of our
time. All this presupposes, as we know, an intimate communion with Him who
calls us to be friends and disciples, a unity of life and of action which is fed by
listening to his word, by contemplation and by prayer, by detachment from the
mentality of the world and by unceasing conversion toward his love so that it may
be He, the Christ, who lives and works in each of us. Here is the secret of
authentic success for the apostolic and missionary commitment of every Christian,
and even more of all those called to a more direct service of the Gospel.

Such an awareness is certainly well present among those taking part in the
General Congregation, and I am eager to honor the great work already completed
by the preparatory commission which in the course of 2007 has examined the
postulates sent by Provinces and indicated the themes to be faced. I would like to
direct my thoughts of gratitude in the first place to you, dear and venerated Father
Superior General, who since 1983 has guided the Society of Jesus in an
enlightened, wise, and prudent manner, seeking in every way to maintain it in the
channel of its founding charism. For objective reasons, you have at various times
asked to be relieved of so heavy a post, assumed with a great sense of responsibility
at a moment in your Order’s history which was not easy. I express to you my most
heartfelt gratitude for the service you have rendered to the Society of Jesus and,
more generally, to the Church. My sentiments of gratitude extend to your closest
collaborators, to the participants of the General Congregation, and to all Jesuits
scattered in every part of the world. To all and to each should arrive this greeting
from the Successor of Peter, who follows with affection and esteem the multiple and
appreciated apostolic works of the Jesuits, and who encourages all to continue in
the path opened by your holy Founder and walked by innumerable hosts of your
brothers dedicated to the cause of Christ, many of whom are inscribed by the
Church among its saints and blessed. From heaven, may they protect and sustain
the Society of Jesus in the mission which it carries out in this our current age,
marked by numerous and complex social, cultural, and religious challenges.

Indeed regarding this theme, how can one not recognize the valid
contribution which the Society offers to the Church’s activity in various fields and
in many ways? Truly a great and meritorious contribution, one which only the
Lord will be able to rightly reward! As did my venerated Predecessors, the Servants
of God Paul VI and John Paul II, I too gladly wish to take this opportunity of a
General Congregation to bring such a contribution to light and, at the same time,
to offer for your common reflection some considerations which might be of
encouragement for you and a stimulus to implement ever better the ideal of the
Society, in full fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, such as described in the
following formula which is well familiar to you: “To serve as a soldier of God
beneath the banner of the Cross and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his
spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth” (Apostolic Letter
Exposcit debitum, 21 July 1550). One treats here of a “peculiar” fidelity confirmed
also, by not a few among you, in a vow of immediate obedience to the Successor of
Peter “perinde ac cadaver”. The Church has even more need today of this fidelity of
yours, which constitutes a distinctive sign of your Order, in this era which warns of
the urgency of transmitting in an integral manner to our contemporaries —
distracted by many discordant voices — the unique and immutable message of
salvation which is the Gospel, “not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as the
word of God”, which works in those who believe.

That this might come to pass, it is indispensable — as earlier the beloved
John Paul II reminded participants of the 34th General Congregation — that the life
of the members of the Society of Jesus, as also their doctrinal research, be always
animated by a true spirit of faith and communion in “humble fidelity to the
teachings of the Magisterium” (Insegnamenti, vol. I, pp. 25-32). I heartily hope that
the present Congregation affirms with clarity the authentic charism of the Founder
so as to encourage all Jesuits to promote true and healthy Catholic doctrine. As
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I had the opportunity to
appreciate the valid collaboration of Jesuit Consultors and experts, who, in full
fidelity to their charism, contributed in a considerable way to the faithful promotion
and reception of the Magisterium. Certainly this is not a simple undertaking,
especially when called to announce the Gospel in very different social and cultural
contexts and when having to deal with different mentalities. I therefore sincerely
appreciate such labor placed at the service of Christ, labor which is fruitful for the
true good of souls in the measure in which one lets oneself be guided by the Spirit,
remaining humble as regard the teachings of the Magisterium, having reference to
those key principles of the ecclesial vocation of the theologian which are delineated
in the Instruction Donum veritatis.

The evangelizing work of the Church very much counts on the formative
responsibility which the Society has in the areas of theology, of spirituality, and of
mission. And, really so as to offer the entire Society of Jesus a clear orientation
which might be a support for generous and faithful apostolic dedication, it could
prove extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of Saint
Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those
neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for
example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology
of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the
indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.

Reverend and dear Father, I am convinced that the Society senses the
historic importance of this General Congregation and, guided by the Holy Spirit,
wants once again — as the beloved John Paul II said in January 1995 — to reaffirm
“unequivocally and without any hesitation its specific way to God, which St.
Ignatius sketched in the Formula Instituti: loving fidelity to your charism will be the
certain source of renewed effectiveness” (Insegnamenti, vol. XVIII/1, 1995, p. 26).
Furthermore, the words my venerated Predecessor Paul VI directed to the Society in
another analogous circumstance appear so very current: “All of us must be vigilant
so that the necessary adaptation will not be accomplished to the detriment of the
fundamental identity or essential character of the role of the Jesuit as is described
in the Formula Instituti as the history and particular spirituality of the Order
propose it, and as the authentic interpretation of the very needs of the times seem
still to require it. This image must not be altered; it must not be distorted.”
(Insegnamenti, vol. XII, 1974, pp. 1181-1182)

The continuity of the teachings of the Successors of Peter stands to
demonstrate the great attention and care which they show toward the Jesuits, their
esteem for you, and the desire to be able to count always on the precious
contribution of the Society to the life of the Church and to the evangelization of the
world. I entrust the General Congregation and the entire Society of Jesus to the
intercession of your holy Founder and the saints of your Order, and to the maternal
protection of Mary, so that every spiritual son of Saint Ignatius might be able to
keep before his eyes “first of all God and then the nature of this his Institute”
(Formula Instituti, 1). With such sentiments, I assure you of a constant
remembrance in prayer and in a heartfelt way I impart to you, Reverend Father, and
to the Fathers of the General Congregation and to the entire Society of Jesus, a
special Apostolic Blessing.

Vatican, 10 January 2008

Benedict PP XVI

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