Monday, February 25, 2008

The Continuing Jesuit GC 35 Meets with Pope Benedict XVI

From the Jesuit Order:
Address by Superior General Adolfo Nicolas

Members of the 35th General Congregation Meet with the Pope

posted by: webmaster on Thursday, February 21, 2008

On February 21, 2008, members of the General Congregation were received by the Holy Father Benedict XVI in a special audience. On behalf of the Society, Superior General Nicolás offered the following words:

Most Holy Father,

I would like my first word to be, in my name and in the name of all present, a heartfelt “thank you” to Your Holiness for kindly receiving today the members of the General Congregation meeting in Rome, after having already bestowed on us the precious gift of a Letter which by way of its rich content and its positive tone, encouraging and affectionate, has most surely been appreciated by the whole Society of Jesus.

Gratitude, indeed, and a strong sense of communion in feeling confirmed in our mission to work at the frontiers where faith and science, faith and justice, and faith and knowledge, confront each other, and in the challenging field of serious reflection and responsible theological research. We are grateful to Your Holiness to have been once more encouraged to follow our Ignatian tradition of service right where the Gospel and the Church suffer the greatest challenges, a service which at times also lends itself to the risk of disturbing a peaceful lifestyle, reputation and security. For us it is a cause of great consolation to note that Your Holiness is more than aware of the dangers that such a commitment exposes to us.

Holy Father, I would like to return once again to the kind and generous Letter which you sent to my predecessor Fr. Kolvenbach and through him to all of us. We have received it with an open heart, meditated on it, reflected on it, we have exchanged our reflections, and we are determined to carry its message and its unconditional words of welcome and acceptance to the whole Society of Jesus.

We wish moreover to convey the spirit of such a message to all our formation structures and to create – taking the message as our starting point – opportunities for reflection and discussion which will enable us to assist our confrères engaged in research and in service.

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.

What inspires and impels us is the Gospel and the Spirit of Christ: if the Lord Jesus was not at the centre of our life we would have no sense of our apostolic activity, we would have no reason for our existence. It is from the Lord Jesus we learn to be near to the poor and suffering, to those who are excluded in this world.

The spirituality of the Society of Jesus has as its source the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. And it is in the light of the Spiritual Exercises – which in their turn inspired the Constitutions of the Society – that the General Congregation is in these days tackling the subjects of our identity and of our mission. The Spiritual Exercises, before becoming a precious tool for the apostolate, are for the Jesuit the touchstone by which to judge our own spiritual maturity.

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. Responsibility that Your Holiness confirms in Your Letter, when You affirm: “The evangelizing work of the Church therefore relies a lot on the formative responsibility that the Society has in the fields of theology, spirituality and mission”.

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.

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 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.

“En todo amar y servir”. This represents a portrait of who Ignatius is. This is the identity card of a true Jesuit.

And so we consider it a happy and significant circumstance that our meeting with You occurs on this particular day, the vigil of the 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 we offer You our good wishes. And now, Holy Father, we are ready and willing, to listen and attend to what You have to say to us.

(translated from the original Italian)

by Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI asked the Jesuits to continue to be pioneers in dialogue, theological research and work for justice, but insisted that they also must make clear their faith and their acceptance of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

"The church needs you, counts on you and continues to turn to you with trust," the pope told more than 200 Jesuits chosen to represent the almost 20,000 members of the Society of Jesus for the order's General Congregation.

Led by Spanish Father Adolfo Nicolas, elected superior general of the order Jan. 19, the congregation delegates met Feb. 21 with the pope.

Father Nicolas told the pope, "In communion with the church and guided by the magisterium, we are seeking to dedicate ourselves deeply to service, discernment and research."

The members of the General Congregation are aware of their responsibility to the church as a whole, he said, but they also are aware of the need for humility, "recognizing that the mystery of God and of the human person is much greater than our ability to understand."

The new superior told the pope that "it saddens us" when people try to present the Jesuits as a group of rebel theologians opposed to traditional church teaching or to the hierarchy.

"The inevitable insufficiencies and superficialities of some of us," he said, "frequently are only manifestations of human limits and imperfections or of the inevitable tensions of daily life."

The Jesuits, he said, love and serve the church, including the hierarchy and the pope himself.

Pope Benedict told the Jesuits that the rapidly changing world with its technological advances and its wars, its aspirations for peace and its threats to the environment, the new possibilities it offers for dialogue and its new forms of poverty call for a response of hope and of salvation from the church.

While 450 years ago the Jesuits were sent to far-off lands to preach the Gospel, "today new peoples do not know the Lord or know him poorly" and are far from the church culturally more than geographically, the pope said.

"The obstacles that challenge those who proclaim the Gospel are not seas or great distances," but rather new barriers that modern societies and cultures have placed between "faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science, faith and the commitment to justice," he said.

Pope Benedict encouraged the Jesuits to continue ensuring a high level of intellectual, cultural and spiritual preparation of their members so that they could cross the barriers and demonstrate how faith not only is not opposed to knowledge, science and justice, but rather is the ingredient that enables them to respond to the deepest desires of the human heart.

Reminding the Jesuits of the letter he sent them before they elected Father Nicolas, Pope Benedict said the Jesuits must continue their theological work on themes related to sexuality and to other religions, but they must do so in a way that helps people understand church teaching on the topics.

"The themes of the salvation of all people in Christ, of sexual morality, of marriage and the family -- continually discussed and questioned today -- must be deepened and enlightened in the context of contemporary reality, but maintaining the harmony with the magisterium that will avoid provoking confusion and concern among the people of God," he told them.

Pope Benedict also objected to the idea some Jesuits have that the order's special fourth vow of obedience to the pope is limited to obeying him when he asks an individual Jesuit or the entire order to undertake a specific mission.

The pope said the "fuller meaning" of the vow, according to the thought of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola, is "to love and serve the vicar of Christ on earth with that 'effective and affective' devotion that makes you his precious and irreplaceable collaborators in his service of the universal church."

While the members of the Jesuit General Congregation continue to meet and discuss possible documents to guide the order in the immediate future, they also finalized the membership of the order's central government.

Father James Grummer, a member of the Jesuits' Wisconsin province, was reappointed regional assistant for North America as well as being named one of Father Nicolas' four special assistants. Another of the special assistants is Father Federico Lombardi who will assist Father Nicolas while continuing in his posts as director of the Vatican press office, of Vatican Radio and of the Vatican television center.


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