Pope Affirms JesuitMission of Bridging Faith and Culture


For the more than 200 delegates of the 35th General Congregation gathered February 21 in the Vatican’s Clementine Room, the Papal audience proved an opportunity to affirm the Society’s mission on the frontier of faith and culture. Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Jesuits for their work, which often involves going “to those physical and spiritual places, where others fail or have difficulty reaching.”

Fr.General Adolfo Nicolás addressed the Holy Father at the beginning of the audience, expressing gratitude for the meeting and the paternal encouragement to the Society during the General Congregation.

“[We have] 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,” said Nicolás, adding, “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 time also lends itself to the risk of disturbing a peaceful lifestyle, reputation and security.”

The Pontiff then offered his reflection on the future of the Society. “The Society of Jesus, faithful to its best tradition, should continue forming its members with great attention to the sciences and to virtue,without conforming to mediocrity,” said Pope Benedict, “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.”

The Pope also encouraged the Jesuits in their theological work on themes related to sexuality and to other religions, cautioning that such work should also help people understand church teaching on the topics. He also spoke to the value of the Spiritual Exercises, calling them “a precious and effective instrument for the spiritual growth of souls.”

Fr. Tom Smolich (CFN), president of the Jesuit Conference, found much promise in the Holy Father’s words.

“He specifically spoke in gratitude for our work, encouraged us in our commitment to faith and justice, commended us on our work with and for the poor (not just materially, but spiritually poor as well), and added Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s contribution of the Jesuit Refugee Service,” he said. “His request for us to follow Church teaching was heard and accepted in the context he gave us – an invitation to work with him in the Church. We are grateful for his positive encouragement of our mission.”

“Our papal audience yesterday will be a memorable highlight of General Congregation 35,” Smolich added. “The bond of affection that Pope Benedict XVI has for the Society was clear throughout his time with us.”

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