Pope Francis prays at the tomb St Alberto Hurtado at the Centro Hurtado in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Antonio Spadaro

“Where have our people been creative?”

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15 February 2018

Conversations with Jesuits in Chile and Peru

On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at 7 p.m., on his first full day of an apostolic journey to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis met with 90 Chilean Jesuits in the Centro Hurtado of Santiago. On arrival he was shown a reproduction of the green Ford van that St. Alberto Hurtado would use to bring aid to the city’s marginalized: it is a true symbol of apostolic passion. The pope was accompanied by the provincial, Fr. Cristián del Campo, into the chapel where the remains of the Jesuit saint are kept. Inaugurated in 1995, the sanctuary houses the tomb of the saint, a stone sarcophagus containing clumps of earth from each region of Chile which together symbolize the embrace of the country’s faithful. The provincial greeted the pope in the name of all the Jesuits – including notably many young ones – and asked him: “How are things going in Chile and have you felt welcomed to our country?” The meeting quickly became warm and familial. Fr. Del Campo presented two of those present, Frs. Carlos and José Aldunate, blood brothers, ages 101 and 100 years.

The following transcript of the conversations has been approved for publication in this form by the pope himself.

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

La Civilta Cattolica

 

Francis began with these words:

I am so pleased to see Fr. Carlos! He was my spiritual director in 1960 for my juniorate. José was the master of novices, and then they made him provincial. Carlos was the caretaker and was…the king of common sense! He could give spiritual advice with really good sense. I recall one time I went to him because I was very angry with someone. I wanted to face up to that person and tell him off. Carlos advised me: “Calm down! Do you really want to break off with him immediately? Try other ways…” I have never forgotten that counsel, and I thank him for it now. Yes, in Chile I immediately felt very welcome. I came yesterday. Today I have been very well received. I have seen many gestures of dear affection. Now ask me whatever you want.

A Jesuit steps forward: “I would like to ask what have been the great joys and disappointments that you have experienced during your pontificate.”

This time of the pontificate is a quite peaceful time. As soon as I realized during the conclave what was about to happen – a complete surprise for me – I felt great peace. And up to today that peace has never left me. It is a gift of the Lord and I am grateful for it. And I really hope he won’t take it away from me. It is a peace that I feel as a pure gift, a pure gift. There is something that does not take peace away from me, but which does hurt me, and that is gossip. I don’t like gossip, it makes me sad. It often spreads in closed-off worlds. When it happens in a world of priests and religious I want to ask: how is this possible? You left everything, you decided not to have a wife next to you, you didn’t marry, you had no children… Do you want to finish as a gossiping old bachelor? Oh, my God, what a sad life!

A Jesuit from the Argentine-Uruguayan province asks: “What resistance have you encountered during your pontificate and how have you faced it? Have you made discernment?”

I never call a difficulty a “resistance” for to do so would be to renounce discernment. I prefer to discern. It is easy to say there is resistance and not realize that a moment of conflict is actually bringing out some crumbs of truth. So I think that such conflicts can help me. I often ask a person: “What do you think?” This would help me to relativize many things that at first sight might seem like resistances but are actually a reaction that comes from a misunderstanding, from the fact that some things need to be repeated, better explained… This might be my defect, the fact that sometimes I take things for granted and make a logical jump without explaining the process clearly, for I am convinced that the person I am talking to has quickly understood my reasoning. I am aware that, if I go back and explain things better, then at that point the other will say, “Ah, yes, agreed…” All in all, it is very helpful for me to examine the meaning of conflicts carefully. But when I am aware that there is true resistance, certainly, I am displeased. Some say to me that it is normal that there is resistance when someone wants to make changes. The famous “this has always been done this way” reigns everywhere: “It has always been done this way, why should we change? If things are the way they are, they have always been done this way, so why change?” This a great temptation that we all faced in the period after the Second Vatican Council. The resistances are still present and try to tell us to relativize the Council, to water it down. I am even sadder when someone joins a campaign of resistance. And alas I see this too. You asked me about resistances, and I cannot deny that there are some, then. I see them and I know them.

There are doctrinal resistances that you know about better than I. For my own good I do not read the content of internet sites of this so-called “resistance.” I know who they are, I know the groups, but I do not read them for my own mental health. If there is something very serious, they tell me about it so that I know. You know them… It is displeasing, but you have to go on. Historians tell us that it takes a century for a Council to put down its roots. We are halfway there.

Sometimes we ask: but that man, that woman, have they read the Council? And there are people who have not read the Council. And if they have read it, they have not understood it. Fifty years on! We studied philosophy before the Council, but we had the advantage of studying theology after it. We lived through the change of perspective, and the Council documents were already there.

When I perceive resistance, I seek dialogue whenever it is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they possess the true doctrine and accuse you of being a heretic. When I cannot see spiritual goodness in what these people say or write, I simply pray for them. I find it sad, but I won’t settle on this sentiment for the sake of my own mental well-being.

Then came a question from a novice: “Many people identify the Church with the bishops and priests. And they are very critical of them for the way they live out their poverty, for the restrictions on the participation of women and limited space given to minorities… Faced with this opinion, what would you propose to bring the Church hierarchy, of which we are a part, closer to the people?”

I have just said to the bishops what I think of the relationship between the bishop and the people of God. And so what I think about bishops you will find in that talk. It was short, for we had two long meetings last year during their ad limina visits. Clericalism is the most serious damage endured by the Church in Latin America today, that is, the failure to be aware that the Church is the entire holy and faithful people of God, who are infallible in credendo, all together. I speak of Latin America for I know it best.

Some time ago I wrote a letter to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and today I came back to the theme. We need to be aware that the grace of being a missionary comes from baptism, not from sacred orders or religious vows.

It is a consolation to see many priests and religious men and women putting their entire lives at stake, that is, with the conciliar option of placing themselves at the service of the people of God. But some still behave like princes. The people of God must be given its own space.

And the same can be said about the theme of women. I had a special experience when I was a diocesan bishop: we needed to look at a specific theme, and a consultation process began – obviously just between priests and bishops – and we had completed our reflection that led us to a number of questions on which a decision needed to be taken. But the same issue, treated during a combined meeting of men and women, led to much richer conclusions, much more practical, much more fruitful. It is that simple experience that comes to mind now, but it makes me reflect. Women need to give the Church all the richness that von Balthasar called “the Marian dimension.” Without this dimension the Church limps or uses crutches, and so walks badly. And I believe that the road is long… And, I repeat, as I said today to the bishops: “unprincify,” be near to the people…

 Fr. Juan Díaz speaks up and the pope recognizes him…

Juanito!

After a warm personal greeting, Fr. Díaz continues: “Francis, on different occasions and in Evangelii Gaudium you have warned about the dangers of worldliness. Which aspects of our life should we Jesuits be careful about so as not to fall into the temptation of worldliness?”

The alarm about worldliness came to me from the final chapter of the Meditations on the Church by Henri de Lubac. He quotes a Benedictine, Dom Anscar Vonier, who speaks of worldliness as the worst evil that can befall the Church. This stirred in me the desire to better understand worldliness. Certainly, St. Ignatius wrote about it in his Spiritual Exercises, in the third exercise of the first week, where he asks to discover the deceits of the world. The three graces we ask for in that meditation are repentance of sins, that is, the pain of sins, shame and the awareness of the world, from the devil and his things. So, in our spirituality, worldliness should be remembered and considered as a temptation.

It would be superficial to state that worldliness is to lead a life that is too relaxed and frivolous. These are just consequences. Worldliness is the use of criteria of the world and following the criteria of the world and choosing to use the criteria of the world. It means making a discernment and preferring the criteria of the world. So what we must be asking ourselves is which are these criteria of the world. And this is precisely what St. Ignatius makes us ask in this third exercise. He has us make three supplications: to the Father, to the Lord and to the Virgin. May they help us discover these criteria! Each of us then must set about discovering what is worldly in our own lives. A simple and general response will not suffice. In what way am I worldly? This is the true question. It is not enough to say what worldliness is in general. For example, a theology professor can become worldly if he goes in search of the latest thoughts so as to be fashionable: this is worldliness. And there can be a thousand other examples. We should ask the Lord not to be deceived in seeking to discern what is our own worldliness.

 Another question follows: “Holy Father, you have always been a man of reforms. Besides those of the Curia and the Church, in which reforms can we Jesuits support you the most?”

I think that one of the things that the Church most needs today is discernment. This is put very clearly in the pastoral perspectives and objectives of Amoris Laetitia. We are used to a “yes you can or no you can’t” mentality. The morality used in Amoris Laetitia is the more classic Thomist morals, that is, the one from St. Thomas himself not the decadent version of later Thomism that some have studied. I too received a formation in the way of thinking of “yes you can or no you can’t,” or “up to this point you can, up to here you can’t.” I wonder if you remember [and here the pope looks at one of those present] that Colombian Jesuit who came to teach morals at the Collegio Massimo? When he taught the sixth commandment someone dared to ask: “Can a man and a woman who are engaged to be married kiss each other?” If they could they kiss each other! Do you get it? And he replied: “Yes they can! No problem! They just have to put a tissue between them.” This is a forma mentis (a way of thinking) for doing theology generally. It is a forma mentis that is based on a limit. And we bear the consequences.

If you take a look at the panorama of reactions to Amoris Laetitia you will see that the strongest criticisms of the exhortation are against the eighth chapter: “Can a divorced person receive communion, or not?” But Amoris Laetitia goes in a completely different direction; it does not enter into these distinctions. It raises the issue of discernment. This was already at the heart of truly great classic Thomist morals. So the contribution that I want from the Society is to help the Church to grow in discernment. Today, the Church needs to grow in discernment. And to us the Lord has given this family grace to discern. I do not know if you know this, but I have said it during other similar meetings with Jesuits: at the end of Fr. Ledóchowski’s time as superior general, the highest work of the spirituality of the Society was the Epitome. Everything you had to do was all regulated in an enormous mix of the Formula of the Institution, the Constitutions and the rules. There were even rules for the cook. And it was all mixed, without following a hierarchy. Fr. Ledóchowski was a great friend of the abbot general of the Benedictines and once he went to visit him bringing along this volume. Shortly after, the abbot sought him out and said: “Father General, with this you have killed the Society of Jesus.” And he was right, for the Epitome took away any room for discernment.

Then came the Second World War. Fr. Janssens had to guide the Society after the war, and he did it as well as he could, for it was not easy. And then came the grace of the Generalate of Fr. Pedro Arrupe with his Ignatian Spirituality Center, the journal Christus and the impulse given to the Spiritual Exercises. He renewed this family grace of discernment. He overcame the Epitome, he went back to the lesson of the fathers, to Favre and Ignatius. Here we should recognize the role of the life of the journal Christus for that period. And then also the role of Fr. Luis González with his center of spirituality: he went around to the entire Society to give the Spiritual Exercises. He went about opening doors, refreshing this aspect that today we see has grown greatly in the Society. I would say, recalling this family history, that there has been a moment in which we had lost – or I do not know if we had lost it, let’s say we did not use it much – the sense of discernment. Today, give it – let’s give it! – to the Church that is crying out for it.

The last question is from a theologian of the province of Peru: “A question on collaboration: What help has the Society been giving to you during your pontificate? How has there been collaboration? What relationship do you have with the Society?”

Since the second day after the election! Fr. Adolfo Nicolás came into my room at Santa Marta… That’s how the collaboration began. He came to greet me. I was still living in the small room that I had been given for the Conclave, not the one I have now, and we conversed there. And the superior generals, both Adolfo and now Arturo, have concentrated much on this. I think that on this point… Fr. Spadaro is here…

Spadaro: “I’m here!”

There he is in the gallery… I think he has been the witness of this relationship with the Society since the first moment. The availability is total. And with intelligence too, as for example on the doctrine of the faith: there has been great support. But nobody could accuse the current pontificate of “Jesuitism.” I say it and I believe I am being sincere in saying so. It is a matter of ecclesial collaboration, in the ecclesial spirit. It is a (sentire) listening and feeling with the Church and in the Church, respecting the charism of the Society. And the documents of the last General Congregation did not need pontifical approval. I have not thought it necessary at all, for the Society is an adult. And if it makes a mistake…complaints will arrive and then we’ll see. I think this is the way we collaborate.

All right, thank you very much…but I want to say one more very important thing to you, a recommendation: the account of conscience! For Jesuits this is a gem, a family grace… Please, don’t overlook it!

The private meeting naturally spilled over into the open space of the sanctuary. A group of people had gathered there who have benefitted from the programs of solidarity run by the Church: representatives of workers, students, the elderly, the homeless and migrants. In his greeting, Jesuit Fr. Pablo Walker, the general chaplain of “Hogar de Cristo,” said, “Dear Pope Francis, the table is ready and we give you a warm welcome. Years ago we invited you to come and drink with us, and now that day has arrived.” Recalling that “to eat is a miracle,” the chaplain asked the pope to bless the “sopaipillas” that had been prepared by Mrs. Sonia Castro and her daughter Isabella Reinal. The pope pronounced the prayer of blessing: “May the Lord bless this food that we are sharing, that has been made by you; may he bless the hands that made it, the hands that distribute it and the hands that receive it. May the Lord bless the hearts of all of us, and may this sharing teach us also to share the way, to share life, and then to share paradise. Amen.” After receiving the Bible of the People of God as a gift and having offered a painting of Jesus the Merciful by Terezia Sedlakova as a gift to the Sanctuary, the pope recited the Our Father with all the participants. Then he imparted his blessing.

                                                                                                 ***

At the end of his first complete day in Peru, January 19, 2018, and after making a courtesy visit to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the pope went to the Jesuit church of St. Peter. The Society of Jesus started building it in the 16th century and it is now considered one of the most important religious complexes in the historical center of Lima. It is also the national Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Its layout echoes that of the Gesù Church in Rome. The façade is in a neoclassical style and there are three entry doors. There is a dominating neoclassical bell tower. Inside the furnishings are in a rich baroque style that is well-lit by sunlight. Off the three naves are found ten chapels. St. Peter’s is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Peru.

At the entrance to the penitentiary chapel, Francis was welcomed by the provincial, Fr. Juan Carlos Morante, and by the local superior, Fr. José Enrique Rodríguez. Crossing the left nave of the church, the pope reached the sacristy where about 100 Jesuits were gathered. Fr. Morante thanked Francis for his visit and spoke of the work of the Society in the evangelization of indigenous peoples in the field of education, remembering Frs. Alonso de Barzana (1528-1598), Francisco del Castillo (1615-1673), Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585-1652) and others. He spoke of the new perspectives from the Second Vatican Council and of the new challenges: the preferential option for the poor, the Spiritual Exercises, the collaboration with the laity, and the new apostolic challenges that require a new apostolic discernment. Then the pope spoke. The text of the conversation transcribed here has been approved for publication in this form by the pontiff.

Francis greeted those present in this way:

Good evening… Thank you. Let’s begin to converse without losing time. You’ve prepared some questions…ask away…

The first question: “We Peruvian Jesuits have always been engaged with the themes of reconciliation and justice, especially in recent years. Now it seems that the political forces have suddenly reached an agreement, and reconciliation seems to be an appeal for all. Reconciliation is being proposed without there having been a process. My question is: what stance should we take, what should we bear in mind when we want reconciliation? We feel that the word “reconciliation” is being manipulated and we feel that justice is being proposed that has not been sufficiently elaborated. What are your thoughts?”

Thank you. The word “reconciliation” is not only manipulated, it is demolished. Today – not just here for this applies in other Latin American countries too – the word “reconciliation” has been emptied of its power. When St. Paul describes the reconciliation of all with God, in Christ, he delivers a strong word. Today, however, “reconciliation” has become wrapping paper. It’s been emptied out. It’s been weakened not only of its religious content but also of its human content, that is, what we share when we look each other in the eye. Instead, today, it is being done under the counter.

I would say that these stunts should not be accepted, nor should we struggle against them. We must say to those who adopt it in its weaker form: use it, but we won’t use it, for the concept has been demolished. We do need to continue to work, however, seeking to reconcile people. From below, from the sides, with a good word, with a visit, with a course to help understanding, with the weapon of prayer that will give us strength and make miracles, but especially with the human weapon of persuasion, which is humility. Persuasion acts through humility.

I propose this path: go and find the adversary, put yourselves before them, if there is the opportunity… persuasion! Considering the reconciliation that is being proposed today, I don’t want to speak about the detail of what is happening in Peru because I don’t know the situation, but I do trust your words, and given that, as I said, this happens in other Latin American countries, I could say to you that this is not so much a true and profound reconciliation, but a negotiation. OK, the art of political leadership implies knowing how to negotiate. The issue is what can be negotiated in an agreement. If among the pile of things you bring to the negotiating table there is stuff regarding your own private interests, then it won’t work…We are not speaking of an agreement. This is something else.

So, instead of “reconciliation” it is better to speak of “hope.” Seek out a word that is not a shortsighted pet project, being used without its full meaning. I want to repeat this: I am not an expert on the details of the situation in Peru, I trust your words, but it is a phenomenon across Latin American countries, this is why I can say what I say.

This question follows: “Holy Father, our province is losing numbers, people are getting old, young people are taking on new responsibilities…We still have many institutions. The situation is not one of the easiest…How can you encourage us, how can you invite us to continue to strengthen our vocation to follow Jesus, to live in the Society of Jesus in these circumstances that can sometimes seem to be discouraging? How can we not become bitter and resentful, but instead seek to live these circumstances joyfully? What should we say to those who are growing old and see behind them fewer people who won’t be able to continue what was done in the past with the same strength? What should we say to the youngest today who find difficult situations all around them?”

You said that we have many “institutions.” Let me correct a word: we have many “works.” We need to distinguish between works and institutions. The institutional aspect of the Society is essential. But not all the works are institutions. Perhaps they were, but time has ensured that they stopped being institutions. We need to discern between what today is an institution – that attracts, gives you strength, that is prophetic – and what instead is a work that, yes, has been an institution in its time, but seems now to have stopped being so. And what has always been done must be done again: a pastoral and community discernment.

Fr. Arrupe insisted on this. We need to choose the works with this criterion: that they are institutions, in the Ignatian sense of the word, that is to say, they attract people and give answers to the needs of today. And this demands a community that places itself into a state of discernment. And perhaps this is your challenge… Considering this decrease of young people and energy, institutional desolation can take over. No, don’t allow it! The Society went through a period of institutional desolation during the Generalate of Fr. Ricci who ended up a prisoner in Castel Sant’Angelo.[1] The letters that Fr. Ricci wrote to the Society in that period are a marvel of criteria of discernment, criteria of action to not allow ourselves to be dragged down by institutional desolation. Desolation pulls you down, it is a wet blanket they throw at you to see how you cope, bringing you to bitterness, to disillusionment. This is the post-triumphalist discourse of Emmaus: “We had hoped…” We do this ourselves, for example, when we use expressions like “the glorious Society was something else,” “the light cavalry of the Church…but now…” And so on.

The Spirit of desolation leaves deep marks. I advise you to read the letters of Fr. Ricci. Later, Fr. Roothaan[2] went through another period of desolation for the Society due to the Freemasons, but it was not as strong as that of Fr. Ricci which culminated in the suppression. And there have been other periods like it in the history of the Society.

On the other hand, we need to look to the fathers, the fathers of the institutionalization of the Society: obviously Ignatius and Faber… Here we can speak of Fr. Barzana.[3] I am fascinated by the figure of Barzana who spoke 12 indigenous languages when he was at Santiago del Estero in Argentina. They called him “the Francis Xavier of the West.” And there, that man planted the seed of faith in the desert, he established the faith. They say he was of Jewish origin and that his name was Bar Shana. It is good to look to these men who were able to institutionalize and didn’t let themselves become discouraged. I ask if Xavier was desolate in his failure to see China without being able to enter. No. I imagine that he turned to the Lord, saying: “You do not want it, so goodbye, that’s OK.” He followed the road that was proposed to him, and in this case it was death!… but that’s OK!

Desolation: we should not let this become part of our lives. Instead we should seek out the Jesuits who are consoled. I don’t know. I don’t want to give a counsel, but… always seek consolation. Seek it always. As a touchstone for your own spiritual lives.

As with Xavier on the border of China, look forward always… God knows! But the smile of the heart should not be left to wither. I don’t know. I can’t give you any recipes. In a climate of consolation what is needed is discernment of the ministries and the institutional aspect. So read the letters of Fr. Lorenzo Ricci. It is marvelous how he wanted to choose consolation at the moment of the greatest desolation that the Society has ever known, when he knew that the European Courts were about to give the Society its coup de grâce.

“I would like you to say something about a theme that leads to a lot of desolation in the Church, and particularly among religious men and women and the clergy: the theme of sexual abuse. We are very disturbed by these scandals. What can you say to us about them? A word of encouragement…

Yesterday I spoke to the priests and religious men and women of Chile in the cathedral of Santiago. This is the greatest desolation that the Church is suffering. It brings shame, but we need to remember that shame is also a very Ignatian grace, a grace that St. Ignatius asks us to make in the three colloquies of the first week. And so let us take it as a grace and be fully ashamed. We have to love the Church with her wounds. Many wounds…

Let me tell you something. On March 24 Argentina remembers the military coup d’état, the dictatorship, the desaparecidos (the disappeared)… and every March 24 the Plaza de Mayo fills to remember it. One year, on March 24, I left the archbishop’s house and went to serve as confessor for the Carmelite sisters. On my return I took the subway and got out six blocks away from Plaza de Mayo. The Plaza was full … and I walked those six blocks to enter by the side. When I was about to cross a road, there was a couple with a child of two or three years, and the child ran ahead. The father said to him: “Come, come, come here… Be careful of the pedophiles!” How shameful I felt! What shame! They didn’t realize that I was the archbishop, I was a priest and… what shame!

Occasionally there are “consolation prizes,” and someone might even say: “OK. Look at the statistics … I don’t know … 70 percent of pedophiles are in the family setting, people known to the family. Then at the gyms and in the swimming pools. The percentage of pedophiles who are Catholic priests does not reach 2 percent, it’s 1.6 percent. It is not that much.” But it is terrible even if only one of our brothers is such! For God anointed him to sanctify children and adults, and instead of making them holy he has destroyed them. It’s horrible! We need to listen to what someone who has been abused feels. On Fridays – sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known – I normally meet some of them. In Chile I also had such a meeting. As their process is very hard, they remain annihilated. Annihilated!

For the Church this is a great humiliation. It shows not only our fragility, but also, let us say so clearly, our level of hypocrisy. In cases of corruption, in the sense of abuse of an institutional type, it is notable that there are some newer Congregations whose founders have fallen into these abuses. These cases are public. Pope Benedict had to suppress a large male Congregation. The founder had spread such habits. He abused young and immature religious men. It was a Congregation that had a female branch, and the female founder had also spread such habits. Benedict had started the process on the women’s branch. I had to suppress it. You here have many painful cases. But it is curious that the phenomenon of abuse touched some new, prosperous Congregations.

Abuse in these Congregations is always the fruit of a mentality tied to power that has to be healed in its malicious roots. And I will add: there are three levels of abuse that come together: abuse of authority (mixing the internal forum with the external forum), sexual abuse and an economic mess.

There is always money involved. The devil enters through the wallet. Ignatius places the first step of the devil’s temptations in riches…then come vanity and pride, but first of all, it’s riches. The three levels come together very often in the new Congregations that have fallen into this problem of abuse.

Forgive my lack of humility in suggesting that you read what I said to the Chileans. That material is more carefully articulated and reasoned than what comes to me now spontaneously.

 “Help us in this process of discernment of the universal Society. Fr. Sosa asks us to reflect on where the Society should go today, considering our strengths and weaknesses. You have a universal vision, you know us well, you know what our contribution to the universal Church could be. You could help us by saying, for example, how you see that the Spirit is moving the Church today toward the future. In which direction should we be following the paths of the Spirit, as Jesuits, in the places we already are – and not just in the province of Peru – to be at the service of the Spirit? Some guidance that could partially transform our program…”

Thank you. I’ll reply with just one word. It might seem that I say nothing, but instead I say everything. And the word is “Council.” Pick up again the Second Vatican Council, and read Lumen Gentium. Yesterday, with the bishops of Chile – or was it the day before, I don’t even know what day it is! – I encouraged them to declericalize. If there is something that is very clear, it is the awareness of the faithful holy people of God, infallible in credendo, as the Council teaches us. This brings the Church forward. The grace of being missionary and proclaiming Jesus Christ comes to us in baptism. From there we can move forward…

We should never forget that evangelization is done by the Church as a people of God. The Lord wants an evangelizing Church, I see that clearly. This came from my heart, in simplicity, in the few minutes I spoke during the general congregations before the conclave. A Church that goes out, a Church that goes out proclaiming Jesus Christ. After or in that very moment when she adores and fills herself with him. I always use an example tied to the Book of Revelation where we read: “I am at the door and knock. If someone opens I will enter” (cf. Rev 3:20). The Lord is outside and wants to come in. Sometimes the Lord is inside and is knocking because he wants us to let him out! The Lord is asking us to be a Church outside, a Church that goes out. Church as a field hospital… Ah, the wounds of the people of God! Sometimes the people of God is wounded by a rigid, moralist catechism, of the “you can or you can’t” variety, or by a lack of testimony.

A poor Church for the poor! The poor are not a theoretical formula of the communist party. The poor are the heart of the Gospel. They are the center of the Gospel. We cannot preach the Gospel without the poor. So I say to you: it is along this line that I feel the Spirit is leading us. And there are strong resistances. But I must also say that for me the fact that resistances arise is a good sign. It is a sign that we are on the right road, this is the road. Otherwise the devil would not bother to resist.

I would say these are the criteria: poverty, being missionaries, the conscience of the faithful people of God… In Latin America, particularly, you should ask: “But where have our people been creative?” With some deviations, yes, but it has been creative in its popular piety. And why have our people been able to be creative in popular piety? Because the clergy weren’t interested, and so they let them do it… the people went on ahead…

And then, yes, what the Church is asking today of the Society – this I have said often, and Spadaro, who publishes these things, has grown tired of writing it – is to teach discernment with humility. Yes, as pontiff I ask this of you officially. Generally, above all, we who are part of the religious setting of life as priests and bishops often show little ability to discern, we don’t know how to do it for we have been educated with another theology that is more formal. We go as far as “you can or you can’t,” as I said to the Chilean Jesuits concerning the resistances to Amoris Laetitia. Some people are reducing the entire fruit of two synods – all the work that has been done – to “you can or can’t.” Help us to discern then. Certainly, someone who is not discerning cannot teach others to discern. And to be discerning you have to enter into practice, you have to examine yourself. You have to start with yourself.

This is how the meeting concluded. The rector of the church then illustrated to the pope the significance of the chair that had been prepared for him. In 1992 there was an attack by the “Sendero Luminoso”[4] and a part of the church was damaged. In the restoration work, the walls were strengthened and an architrave dating from 1672 was removed. It had been used to make the chair for this visit, and it was cut using Lima-style baroque. The pope thanked him, smiling, and made a joke: “I sat on 1672. I’ll play this number in the lottery!” At the end, the provincial thanked the pope before asking for a group photo. The pope replied to the thanksgiving with these words:

I thank you very much. Pray for me! I share with you a great grace: as soon as I realized that I was going to be elected pope I felt a great peace that has never yet abandoned me. Pray that the Lord will keep it for me!

At the end of the encounter, the pope gave the Jesuits a silver cross made by the Italian goldsmith Antonio Vedele in 1981. It is inscribed with the stations of the Via Crucis. It does not portray just 14 stations but 15. This is because the artist wanted to place between the two arms the representation of the resurrection of Christ. Vedele is the same goldsmith who designed the pectoral cross used by Pope Francis. In 1998 it was cast in silver by his student Giuseppe Albrizzi, the artist of the crosier used by the then cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Finally, the pope posed for a group photograph. Then he crossed the church of St. Peter and, before going out the main door, he stopped before the tomb of the venerable Fr. Francisco del Castillo, the apostle of Lima.


[1] Fr. Lorenzo Ricci (1703-1775) carried out the role of superior general of the Society of Jesus at a delicate moment in the history of the Society due to tensions with European governments. In his time the Order was expelled first from countries like Portugal, France and Spain. It was only with Clement XIV that the Society was suppressed and, while Jesuits were integrated into diocesan and religious clergy, Fr. Ricci was imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo. He lived there alone and was the victim of all sorts of humiliations, maintaining that the Society had given no cause for its suppression until his death two years later.

[2] Fr. Jan Philippe Roothaan (Amsterdam, November 23, 1783/1785 – Rome, May 8, 1853) was a Dutch Jesuit and superior general of the Order (the second after its restoration) from July 9, 1829 until his death. His work as superior general was very fruitful for the newly restored Order. His chief attention was given to maintaining and strengthening the spirit of the Society. Nine of his 11 general letters were dedicated to this theme. He enlarged the work in the missions. The Order doubled the number of its members, reaching 5,000 professions. But the Society had to suffer expulsion from many countries, especially in 1848, the year of revolution.

[3] Fr. Alonso de Barzana (Cuenca, 1530 – Cuzco, 1597) was assigned the mission of Juli on the banks of Lake Titicaca, today southeast Peru. He remained in the central zone of what is now Bolivia for 11 years until he was sent to Tucumán. He carried out missionary work among the Indians of the Valley of Calchaquies and then in Gran Chaco until 1593. He continued his work among the many tribes of that region and those of Paraguay until 1589. He knew many indigenous languages and wrote grammars, dictionaries and catechisms for most of these languages.

[4] The “Communist Party of Peru of the Shining Path of Mariátegui” is a Peruvian guerrilla organization inspired by Maoism, set up between 1969 and 1970 by Abimael Guzmán following a split from the Partido Comunista del Peru – Bandera Roja (PCP-BR). Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path) seeks to subvert the Peruvian political system and set up socialism through armed fighting.