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Today marks the 38th anniversary of the founding of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) by Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ. Today is also the 111th anniversary of the birth of Fr Arrupe himself.  The founding of JRS was a grace of Fr Arrupe’s deep prayer, reminding the Society of Jesus and the world that love is better shown in deeds rather than in words, especially to those most in need and most forgotten.

During a liturgy in Rome today with JRS international office staff and friends, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, officially proclaimed the beginning of the beatification process for Fr Arrupe as described in this letter – English, Spanish, French – which he sent to the entire Society of Jesus today.

The General Curia in Rome created a website dedicated to the life and work of Fr. Arrupe, which hosts extensive archives with his letters, speeches and other publications. 

Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, joined the staff of the JRS international office today to celebrate the anniversary with a Mass. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

A short history of JRS 

Serving refugees around the world since the beginning, JRS was founded in November 1980 by Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, the then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, to respond to the plight of Vietnamese refugees fleeing their war-ravaged homeland.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese fled their homes, setting out in overcrowded boats across the South China Sea. Many did not survive the journey; they were killed by pirates, or drowned because of storms and rough seas. Fr Arrupe felt compelled to act. He called on the Jesuits “to bring at least some relief to such a tragic situation”.

Fr Arrupe wrote to over 50 Jesuit Provinces regarding the situation, recognising that the Jesuits, then numbering 27,000 men across the world, were well-placed to coordinate a global humanitarian response. As conflicts broke out in Central and Latin America, southeastern Europe, and across Africa, JRS rapidly grew from helping Vietnamese boat people in a few camps in Southeast Asia to working with refugees around the world.

Nearly 20 years after its founding, JRS was officially registered as a foundation of the Vatican City State on 19 March 2000.

Source: JRS International website