The Correspondents of La Civilità Cattolica: A journal with an increasingly broad perspective

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

 Antonio Spadaro, SJ / Church Life / Published Date:1 February 2018/Last Updated Date:23 February 2021

From the month of February 2018, together with the names of the Jesuits who are part of our College of Writers (the editorial board of the journal), the inside cover will also list some “correspondents” and “contributing editors.” Of the 195 articles published during 2017, over 70 were written specifically for our journal by some 50 Jesuit authors living in different countries around the world.

Collaboration with Jesuit authors has long been a part of La Civiltà Cattolica, but so far it has always been spontaneous and somewhat impromptu. Use has also been made of articles written for other journals. Today, however, we are aware of the need to build up a group of Jesuits who live in their own country and are also united around La Civiltà Cattolica not just for the sake of friendship and occasional or sporadic collaboration, but with a mission to write for us that has been received from their own superiors.

There is then a new institution within the journal. It will establish our international vocation and allow us to have “eyes” spread around the world, able to write from many observation posts on various topics. These then are the correspondents.

Alongside them are some Jesuit contributing editors who, while not being part of the College, nevertheless live in Rome and offer a direct and continual collaboration following a mission entrusted to them by their own superiors.

In this way La Civiltà Cattolica offers its readers the same traditional experience that is strongly anchored to an editorial board living a shared life of study. And this experience now becomes even more opened up to the world with an international dimension that more clearly expresses the universality of the Church. This internationality has its beating heart in Rome, as the See of Peter, and so it has a Catholic internationality that does not iron out differences but valorizes them, turning them into a richness for all.

And it is also clear that in a complex world like ours it is not enough to remain at home to be able to speak competently on the variety of issues all around the world: some sort of direct experience is needed. A perspective that looks at reality through experience can raise the issues with the most competence, perhaps grasping elements and choosing perspectives for analysis that cannot be seen from afar. La Civiltà Cattolica has no desire to do culture in the laboratory, something that comes from distant, theoretical study; it wants to spread news and reflections that are already inculturated at the source where they are born. The world is before us.

After 168 years of existence our journal feels the need for this newness. It is useful to provide some detail to articulate the significance and consequences.


Let us take a step back and return to the foundation of the journal. The date of birth of La Civilità Cattolica can usually be given as January 9, 1850, when Pius IX, then living in Portici, Naples, during a private audience granted to Flemish Fr. Jan Philipp Roothaan, the Father General of the Society of Jesus, gave the command for Italian Jesuits to begin publishing a journal that would defend Catholic doctrine and the interests of the Holy See. The Jesuits immediately decided to follow the orders of Pius IX. A journal was established with an autonomous community of writers, under the pope, through the mediation of the superiors of the Society.

The fundamental shape of this new institution was fixed by its first director, Fr. Carlo Maria Curci, who offered this suggestion: “His Holiness the Supreme Pontiff could constitute with Apostolic Authority a house of writers of the Society of Jesus at the service of the Church for the aforesaid aim, at the service of the Roman Pontiff and under the immediate dependency of the Superior General of the same Society, according to all the norms of its College.”

The pontifical Breve by Pius IX, Gravissimum Supremi, erected and constituted, on February 12, 1866, the College of Writers in perpetuity. It fully accepted all the suggestions of Fr. Curci. With his letter Sapienti Consilio, Leo XIII recalled how his predecessor Pius IX had as his main aim the constitution of a group of “chosen writers, united in shared life and study,” able to pursue “the quest for the truth and love of justice.” (For a history of the journal and the relevant pontifical documents, see A. Spadaro – G. Sale, Il coraggio e l’audacia: Da Pio IX a Francesco, Milano, Rizzoli, 2017).

The strictly and radically collegial nature of the journal was confirmed by all the pontiffs from Pius IX to Francis, who said during the audience he granted for the publication of the 4000th issue one year ago: “I confirm the original Statutes of your journal written by Pius IX in 1866, instituting La Civiltà Cattolica ‘in perpetuity.’ Reading them today, we see a language that is no longer our own. But the deep and specific significance of your journal is described well and must remain unchanged, that is, the journal is the expression of a community of writers, all Jesuits, who share both an intellectual experience and a charismatic one, as well as the daily life of the community, at least in the fundamental nucleus of the editorial board.” (“Papa Francesco incontra ‘La Civiltà Cattolica’ in occasione del fascicolo 4000,” in Civ. Catt. 2017 I 439-447).

Francis wanted the variety of the topics treated to be “chosen and elaborated in consultation among you, which requires frequent exchange.” And he concluded: “The center of La Civiltà Cattolica is the College of Writers. Everything must revolve around it and its mission.”


Yet it was also Francis himself who praised the international opening of the journal, which extended to five languages one year ago: “I am happy to be able to bless the editions of La Civiltà Cattolica in Spanish, English, French and Korean. It is an evolution that your predecessors already had in mind at the time of the Council, but it was never put into effect.” Before a “world that is ever more connected, the overcoming of linguistic barriers will help to better spread the message more widely,” he commented. Above all Francis saw the implications for the life of the journal itself: “This new stage will also contribute to widening your horizons and to receiving written contributions from other Jesuits in various parts of the world. The vibrant culture tends to open, to integrate, to multiply, to share, to dialogue, to give and to receive within a people and with other peoples with whom it engages. La Civiltà Cattolica will be a journal ever more open to the world. This is a new way of living your specific mission”

These words of Francis have echoed deeply within us. We have meditated again on the words that John Paul II had spoken to the College of Writers in 1990: “If every human problem today has, in fact and in law, taken on global dimensions, the intention of contributing to the formation of a Catholic or universal civilization that 100 years ago could have seemed ambitious, is today extremely pertinent, one could even say an urgent duty (A. Spadaro – G. Sale, Il coraggio e l’audacia…, cit., 86f). Meditating on these words of John Paul II, the Jesuit writers of that time commented: “This breadth of vision, fostered by faithfulness to the Church and by the sharing of its universal mission, enables the journal to actively carry out an important function of wide-ranging orientation nationally and internationally that looks to all the fields and issues faced by the society and the Church” (Ibid., 148; italics added).

These considerations have led us to ask Jesuits from different parts of the world to provide many original contributions for our periodical. Currently they amount to about 40 percent of the articles that we publish. The contributions are translated from their original language into the other languages of the journal, and so become a “bridge” of culture and evangelical reflection on the great themes of the world. The same editorial line of the journal takes its form by accompanying the evolution of reality, which is encountered in light of the very charism of the Jesuits.

We begin now with a first group of collaborators and correspondents who have already worked with the journal, and so have already been familiar with it for some time. The group might undergo some variations and also grow.


Their names compose a first map of correspondents from many countries with different ages and experiences. Indeed, one of the criteria for collaboration is the familiarity with various cultural and linguistic contexts. Drew Christiansen (American, professor of ethics and global human development at Georgetown University), Bert Daelemans (Flemish, professor of theology at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid), Fernando de la Iglesia Viguiristi (Spanish, professor of international economy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome), Joseph You Guo Jiang (Chinese, teaching education and cultural diversity at Boston College), Federico Lombardi (Italian, president of the Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation and former director of the Vatican Press Hall), Friedhelm Mennekes (German, professor of theology and art at the Hochschule Sanckt Georgen, Frankfurt), David Neuhaus (South African with Israeli citizenship, was the vicar general of the Hebrew language community of the Latin Patriarchate), Vladimir Pachkov (Russian, journalist and writer) a Moscow-based Jesuit who writes on Russia, Eastern Europe and Germany, Arturo Peraza (Venezuelan, former provincial, now vice-director of the Guayana section of the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas), Camillo Ripamonti (president of the association Centro Astalli, the Italian center of the Jesuit Refugee Service), George Ruyssen (Belgian, dean of the faculty of canon law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome), Paul Soukup (American, department of communication at Santa Clara University, California), Marcel Uwineza (Rwandan, completing his studies at Boston College), Andrea Vicini (Italian, professor of moral theology at Boston College).

To these are added the Contributing Editors: José Luis Narvaja (Argentine, teacher of history of theology in Frankfurt, Rome and Buenos Aires) and Luke Hansen (American, journalist and currently a student at the Gregorian University in Rome). We also mention Michael Kelly, an Australian living in Thailand, executive director of the Union of Catholic Asian News and publisher of our journal in English; and Jeong-yeon Xavier Hwang and Kyoung-woong Peter Park, who are responsible for the Korean edition.

The map is neither complete nor definitive, for the journal uses and will always welcome the contributions of many other Jesuits coming from many other nations. In the course of the last year we can add to what has already been counted the following nations of our writers: Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Cuba, France, Japan, India, Ireland, Fiji, Malta, Portugal, United Kingdom, South Sudan, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.


When we write about the political and social dynamics of Italy, we try to do so being aware that it is not an island and that isolationist nationalism is blind, lacking meaning and value. The way we look at our country then seeks to be careful, open and always vigilant. This is why we celebrated the 4000th issue of our journal with events that saw the participation of Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Italian Republic, and Paolo Gentiloni, the President of the Council of Ministers. At the same time the international openness of the journal was honored by the presence of many ambassadors for the occasion.

Entrusting once again La Civiltà Cattolica to our readers, 12 months on from that historical 4000th issue, we want to highlight this newness. The journal remains anchored to a resident College of Writers while opening up to the contribution and advice of many Jesuits in the world who widen our horizons. The work we carry out will better interpret – at least this is our hope – the world for the Church and the Church for the world, contributing to an open, full, cordial and respectful dialogue. A cultural journal such as ours must immerse itself in the world to hear its pulsating heart, to recognize its desires, its needs and frustrations, and not least the laboring presence of God in human reality.