Fr. Arturo Sosa, 14 December 2022
Conversation with a group of journalists in Rome
First of all, thank you for accepting the invitation to participate in this pre-Christmas meeting organized by the Communications Office and other members of the General Curia of the Society of Jesus. We greatly appreciate the communication work you do every day throughout the year. As on previous occasions, we seek to open this space for informal exchange that is not so much a “press conference” as an interchange of experiences and reflections as we approach the end of the year 2022.
Before hearing your comments or questions, allow me to share some feelings and reflections on what I have experienced over the course of the year, which I do not hesitate to characterize as challenging, and even unsettling, and which has produced more questions than answers.
- In the midst of this change of historical epoch, the consequences of which we can barely glimpse, the world emerging from the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic is revealed as more unequal than ever, possessing social structures that only increase injustice. We are also experiencing major geopolitical transformations, while the environment continues to deteriorate because crucial decisions are not being made or are being constantly postponed.We must therefore frankly ask ourselves whether humanity has missed an opportunity to make the structural changes that are needed to close the breaches caused by the poverty-producing injustice that becomes all too manifest in the flows of millions of migrants searching for better living conditions, in the increasing forms of violence, and in the ever worsening destruction of the environment.
- When we least expected it, the war between Ukraine and Russia broke out, directly affecting the neighboring countries of Belarus, Poland, Moldova, Romania and the rest of Europe. Our Jesuit brethren on the ground have been actively supporting the Ukrainian people, upholding their faith and helping those seeking refuge from the war, wherever they come from. The entire body of the Society has collaborated in a vast plan of reception, accompaniment and humanitarian support both inside and outside the country of Ukraine. This work is coordinated by the Brussels-based Jesuit Refugee Service of Europe. I am deeply grateful to the many persons who have helped us to contribute to alleviating the suffering of so many people living in almost unbearable conditions.Other wars have also attracted the attention of the communities and provinces of the Society of Jesus, such as those in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Syria…
- Jesuits and their companions in mission often find themselves in precarious circumstances because of the alarming deterioration of democracy and the open violation of human rights, which threaten in different ways the peoples with whom we share our life and our service. I could cite various examples on different continents, but I will limit myself to recalling the senseless murder in June this year of Jesuit Fathers Javier Campos (79) and Joaquín Mora (80), along with the tour guide who had sought refuge in their church in the Sierra de la Tarahumara in Mexico.This crime drew dramatic attention to the unbridled increase in violence in Mexico. The deaths and disappearances of persons in this country are counted in the thousands.
- Jesuit Refugee Service continues to multiply its efforts to respond to the plight of migrants in many parts of the world. The crisis in Afghanistan in August 2021, with the return of the Taliban to power, was a particularly dramatic moment that tested the people, as well as those who stayed with them in an effort to save lives.JRS has been increasingly trying to go beyond a first, immediate response and to offer various forms of quality education for thousands of refugee children and youth living in camps or other difficult circumstances.
- The 36th General Congregation, meeting in October 2016, urged the entire Society of Jesus to commit itself to creating a culture of safeguarding children, youth, and vulnerable people as one of the crucial dimensions of social justice. A cultural change like this requires long, well-planned processes that are constantly evaluated and that require much learning along the way. A great effort has been made to get the whole body of the Society of Jesus to arrive at the same level of understanding and response to individual cases and clear prevention policies. This has a challenge because the Society is rooted in very different contexts, with very different perceptions of the problem and ways to solve it, The entirety of the Society’s 69 administrative units (Provinces and Regions) have actively participated in this effort, with the support by the Regional Conferences.Today we have an exact map of the state of each of the administrative units regarding attention and prevention. We know whether they have set up programs to improve or consolidate the implementation of safe environments in schools, universities, social centers, parishes and other apostolic works under our responsibility. Child protection protocols are well developed everywhere. As far as vulnerable adults are concerned, much work remains to be done, both on our part and on the part of the Catholic Church and civil society in general.In accord with the path that each of the administrative units has followed, programs have been established for the formation of Jesuits and of all those who share our mission, and mechanisms have been put in place for processes of evaluation and accompaniment that will allow us to grow in a new culture of protection.
- I said that we are engaged in a complex process of continuous learning in this matter, which naturally makes a special impact in the sphere of communications. The case of Fr. Marko Rupnik, which became public last week, is a good example of how much we still have to learn, especially about people’s suffering. This case, like others, causes us shock and sorrow; it forces us to understand and empathize with the suffering of all those involved in one form or another. It confronts us with the challenge of respecting this pain at the same time as we scrupulously initiate the procedures demanded by civil or canonical laws. We seek to communicate this in a way that does not conceal the facts, while we also, enlightened by the Gospel and other human experiences, try to open paths toward healing the wounds produced.Cases such as that of Fr. Rupnik are the exclusive responsibility of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), which asks religious superiors to carry out both the pre-trial investigations and the eventual administrative-penal processes, while the final decision always remains with the DDF. In this case, the DDF directly received a complaint that permissible limits were exceeded in the relations between Fr. Rupnik and consecrated adult persons in the Loyola Community, Slovenia, while he was exercising pastoral activities related to sacramental ministry. These events occurred in the early 1990s. The DDF asked the Society of Jesus to proceed immediately with the initial investigation. Upon receiving the information and the assignment, the Society took precautionary measures proportionate to the case. The initial investigation was carried out by competent persons outside the Society, and the results were delivered to the Dicastery. After the Dicastery had studied the file and reported that the complaints received were legally prescribed, we sought to move from the level of legal proceedings to the task of taking care of the suffering caused and trying to heal the open wounds. Maintaining the restrictive measures on Fr. Rupnik’s ministry constitutes one element of a complex process, which we know takes time and for which there are no predefined formulas. It is part of the apprenticeship we are doing, trying not to get it wrong.
- One experience worth sharing on this occasion is the creation and progress of the Commission on the Role of Women in the Apostolic Body of the Society of Jesus. The motivation and starting point for this Commission were both our awareness of the sheer scale of the participation of women at all levels of the work being done under the responsibility of the Society of Jesus and our realization that we need to deepen this participation.The aim of the Commission is to evaluate the conditions under which the participation of women is realized and to propose ways to improve it. The Commission is composed of six women (one from each regional conference, including one religious woman), one layman, and four Jesuits from different provinces. It was formed in March 2021 and has a three-year work program.The first phase was dedicated to getting to know one another better and searching for someone to coordinate the process. They realized that there was a need to go beyond the members of the Commission and to carry out a study that would survey the diversity of situations in which women participate in the work of the Society. For this they received the support of the Institute of Filipino Culture at the Ateneo University of Manila, which developed a pilot test with various themes and questions.
It was not until October of this year 2022 that the Commission could meet in person here in Rome. Before that, all the work had been done online. During this October meeting the importance of carrying out a broad survey was confirmed. With the presence of the team from the Institute at the Ateneo of Manila, an ambitious survey was planned; it will be carried out in 2023, and after the results are studied, appropriate recommendations will be made to the Society of Jesus in 2024.
This process gives me much hope, and I look forward with optimism to the recommendations that this Commission will propose for improving the quality of women’s participation in the apostolic life of the body of the Society.
- Organizing has already begun to ensure that young people related to the Society’s works can participate in the World Youth Day, which will be held in Lisbon in August 2023.As on previous occasions, they will participate in the World Day itself, but there will also be a prior program in which a couple of thousand young people will engage in volunteer experiences in communities in the country where the World Day takes place. This time the experiences will be in Portugal and Spain.This is another sign that nourishes my hope in the possibilities of our helping to transform reality and of our walking together toward a more just and humane future.
- The Society of Jesus is also participating actively in the synodal process that is preparing for the Synod on Synodality that will take place in the two sessions planned for October 2023 and October 2024.We are participating at the diocesan level, both in the conferences of religious women and men and in apostolic networks. We are also collaborating directly with the Vatican Secretariat of the Synod by participating in the commissions on methodology, spirituality and theology. One specific contribution is the Program for Discerning Leadership, which this year was offered in English, Spanish and Italian in Rome and other countries.
- When we met together last year, the 2021-2022 Ignatian Year had already begun, and it culminated in Loyola on July 31 this year. I must say that it was a wonderful experience that far exceeded my personal expectations as well as those of the sponsoring group.It served to spur the creativity of the provinces and the apostolic works, which organized countless initiatives involving many people, times and places. Its main fruit was the renewal of our desire to continue the process of conversion to which the Universal Apostolic Preferences 2019-2029 call us. You are already aware of these preferences, which are: to show the way to God, to walk with the excluded; to accompany the youth, and to contribute to the care of our Common Home.At the start of this meeting you were able to learn about some other experiences, such as the “cannonball” experiences in some people’s lives, the report on the youth video contest, and the launch of the new Ignatian Pilgrimage App.
The life of the Society of Jesus is much richer than is apparent from what I have presented in this introduction. The magazine Jesuits, which you received, illustrates other dimensions of this life and describes the direct contact we have in so many countries. It paints a picture with many colors. All this fills our heart with joy and Hope.
Thank you very much for your attention and interest.
This article was originally published in Jesuits.global