The Pope spoke to parish priests, that is, to pastors who have their hands in everything and who know well the concrete situations of people. No one knows the varied reality of life better than they do.
The Pope asked the parish priest 2 things:
to witness to the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and its strength, to make people aware of the grace and the beauty of marriage.
to be concretely attentive, without the attitudes of bureaucrats, to situations and people. The Church is a mother and she takes care of people tenderly.
And this is why he asks for the welcoming of those young people who prefer to live together without getting married.
But the Pope has done nothing more than to repeat what the Synod of Bishops 2016 approved with more than an 80% consensus (Relatiofinalis, nn. 70-71, read below) and that is that one realizes that simply cohabiting is often chosen due to a general mentality against definitive commitments, but also because the couple is waiting for existential security (work and a fixed salary).
All these situations must be addressed in a constructive manner, trying to transform them into an opportunity to journey towards the fullness of marriage and family in the light of the Gospel.
Rather, in many circumstances, the decision to live together is a sign of a relationship that needs to be directed to an outlook of stability to which it is important to focus.
THE FINAL REPORT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS TO THE HOLY FATHER, POPE FRANCIS, 24 October 2015
70. In some countries, […] an increasing number of those who have lived together for a long period of time ask for the celebration of marriage in Church. Oftentimes, the choice of simply living together results from not only a general aversion towards institutions and making firm commitments but also an expectation of a sense of security in life (awaiting a job and a steady salary). And finally, in other countries, de facto unions are becoming more numerous, because of not only the rejection of the values of family and marriage but also, for some, marriage is seen as a luxury due to their state in society. Consequently, in the latter case, the lack of material resources forces couples to live in de facto unions. All these situations must be addressed in a constructive manner, attempting to turn them into opportunities leading to conversion and the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel.
71. The choice of a civil marriage or, in many cases, simply living together, is often not motivated by prejudice or resistance against a sacramental union, but from situations or cultural contingencies. In many circumstances, the decision to live together is a sign of a relationship which wants, in reality, to lead to a stable union in the future. This intention, which translates into a lasting, reliable bond, open to life, can be considered a commitment on which to base a path to the Sacrament of Marriage, discovered as God’s plan in one’s life. The path of growth, which can lead to a sacramental marriage, is to be encouraged by recognizing the traces of a generous and enduring love, namely, the desire of a couple to seek the good of others before their own; the experience of forgiveness requested and given; and the aspiration to form a family not for itself but open to the good of the ecclesial community and all of society. While pursuing these goals, value can also be given to those signs of love which properly correspond to the reflection of God’s love in an authentic conjugal plan.
Conversar con el cardenal Christoph Schönborn, arzobispo de Viena, supone crear un espacio de reflexión que exige atención y serenidad. La lucidez de sus reflexiones va siempre de la mano de su profundidad espiritual. En este sentido, se corresponde bien con el carisma de la Orden de Predicadores y que resume el lema de Santo Tomás de Aquino, contemplata aliis tradere, “comunicar a los otros las realidades contempladas”. Y eso precisamente fue nuestra conversación: una transmisión, un intercambio, no de una serie de abstractas tesis intelectuales o escolásticas, sino de unos razonamientos que han encontrado su confirmación en la oración. El tono y el ritmo de la conversación reflejan también esta misma dimensión contemplativa.
Algunos hablan de “La Alegría del Amor” como de un documento menor, de una opinión personal del Papa Francisco (por decirlo así), sin pleno valor magisterial. ¿Qué valor posee esta exhortación? ¿Es un acto de magisterio? Esto parece evidente, pero es bueno aclararlo en estos tiempos, para evitar que algunas voces que sostienen lo contrario puedan crear confusión entre los creyentes.
Es obviamente un acto de magisterio: es una exhortación apostólica. Está muy claro que el Papa está ejerciendo aquí su papel de pastor, de maestro y profesor de la fe, después de haber consultado los dos sínodos sobre la familia. Y sin duda hay que decir que se trata de un documento pontificio de gran nivel, un verdadero magisterio de sacra doctrina, que nos remite a la actualidad de la palabra de Dios. La he leído muchas veces, y siempre que lo hago percibo la delicadeza de su composición y cada vez mayor cantidad de detalles repletos de enseñanza.
No faltan pasajes en la exhoratación que demuestran clara y decisivamente su valor doctrinal. El tono y el contenido de lo que se dice permiten reconocer la intención del texto —por ejemplo, cuando el Papa escribe: “Pido con urgencia…”, “Ya no podemos seguir diciendo…” “He querido presentar a toda la Iglesia…” y así sucesivamente—. “La Alegría del Amor” es un acto del magisterio que permite que la enseñanza de la Iglesia se haga presente y relevante en el mundo de hoy. Al igual que leemos el Concilio de Nicea a la luz del Concilio de Constantinopla y el Concilio Vaticano I a la luz del Concilio Vaticano II, tenemos que leer las previas afirmaciones del magisterio sobre la familia a la luz de las aportaciones que hace “La Alegría del Amor”. Eso nos permitirá dilucidar vívidamente la distinción entre la continuidad de los principios doctrinales y la discontinuidad de las perspectivas y reconocer aquellas expresiones que estuvieron condicionadas históricamente. Esta es la función que corresponde al magisterio vivo: interpretar verazmente la palabra de Dios, ya sea escrita o recogida por la tradición.
¿Le han sorprendido algunas cosas? ¿Y ha habido otras que le hayan movido a la reflexión? ¿Ha habido pasajes que ha tenido que pararse a leer varias veces?
Lo que me sorprendió muy gratamente fue la metodología. En este ámbito de la realidad humana, el Santo Padre renovó esencialmente el discurso de la Iglesia en las páginas de su exhortación apostólica “La Alegría del Evangelio”, como también lo hizo la constitución pastoral “Gaudium et Spes” del Concilio Vaticano II, que esboza ya los principios doctrinales y las reflexiones sobre el ser humano que hoy en día siguen en constante evolución. Hay aquí una profunda apertura para asumir la realidad.
¿Diría usted que esta perspectiva, tan abierta a la realidad, y también a la fragilidad, puede perjudicar la fortaleza de la doctrina?
Rotundamente no. El gran desafío del Papa Francisco es precisamente demostrar que esta perspectiva, por ser capaz de comprender y estar transida de benevolencia y de confianza, no causa daño alguno a la fortaleza de la doctrina. Por el contrario, esta perspectiva forma parte de los pilares de la doctrina. Francisco entiende la doctrina como el “hoy” de la Palabra de Dios, la Palabra encarnada en la historia, y la predica mientras va escuchando las preguntas que surgen por el camino. Lo que rechaza es esa actitud de encerrarse en discursos abstractos, impropios de quien vive y da testimonio de encuentro con el Señor que nos cambia la vida. Esa abstracta y doctrinaria perspectiva que domestica algunas declaraciones para imponerlas a una élite, y olvida que si cerramos los ojos a nuestro prójimo, también nos estamos volviendo ciegos a Dios, como dijo Benedicto XVI en “Deus caritas est”.
A uno le llama la atención esa insistencia del Papa en “La Alegría del Amor” de que la familia no es una realidad preconcebida y perfecta. Entonces ¿por qué tendemos a ser tan excesivamente idealistas cuando hablamos sobre las relaciones matrimoniales? ¿Es quizá un idealismo romántico que corre el riesgo de pecar de platónico?
La misma Biblia describe la vida familiar no como un ideal abstracto, sino como lo que el Santo Padre llama “un proceso dinámico” (AL 122 y 113). Los ojos del Buen Pastor miran a las personas, no a las ideas que pretenden justificar a posteriori la realidad de nuestra esperanza. La distancia que existe entre estas concepciones teóricas y el mundo en el que la Palabra se encarna, nos lleva a desarrollar “una fría moral de escritorio” (AL 312). A veces hemos hablado del matrimonio de forma tan abstracta que pierde todos sus atractivos. El Papa habla muy claro: la familia no es una realidad perfecta, porque está formada por pecadores. La familia en un proceso en camino. Creo que esta es la piedra angular de todo el documento. Y me parece que esta manera de mirar las cosas no tiene nada que ver con el secularismo, con el aristotelismo opuesto al platonismo. Creo más bien que es realismo bíblico, el modo de mirar a los seres humanos que nos brinda la Escritura.
Tal como escuchó de los propios Padres sinodales, el Papa es consciente del hecho de que no podemos seguir hablando de las personas en categorías tan abstractas ni condicionar la praxis concreta a la generalidad de una norma.
Respecto a los principios, la doctrina sobre el matrimonio y los sacramentos es clara. Y el Papa Francisco la ha expuesto una vez más con gran claridad. Respecto a la disciplina, el Papa toma en consideración la infinita variedad de situaciones concretas y afirma que no podemos esperar una nueva serie de normas, a modo de ley canónica, que pueda ser aplicable a todos los casos. En cuanto a la praxis, dada la complejidad de las situaciones y de las familias afectadas, el Santo Padre dice que lo que sí es posible es un nuevo y decidido esfuerzo para asumir el responsable discernimiento personal y pastoral que exigen los casos concretos. Hay que tener en cuenta que, “puesto que el grado de responsabilidad no es el mismo en todos los casos, las consecuencias o los efectos de una norma no necesariamente deben ser siempre los mismos” (AL 300). Añade, muy claramente y sin ambigüedad alguna, que este discernimiento alcanza también a “la disciplina sacramental, puesto que el discernimiento puede reconocer que en una situación particular no hay culpa grave” (AL 300, nota al pie 336). Y especifica también que “la conciencia de las personas debe ser mejor incorporada en la praxis de la Iglesia” (AL 303), especialmente en “conversación con el sacerdote, en el fuero interno” (AL 300).
Después de esta exhortación, ya no tiene sentido preguntar si, en general, todas las personas divorciadas que se han vuelto a casar pueden o no pueden recibir los sacramentos.
La doctrina de fe y costumbres existe—la disciplina basada tanto en la sagrada doctrina como en la vida de la Iglesia—y existe también la praxis, que está determinada tanto por la persona como por la comunidad. “La Alegría del Amor” se sitúa en el plano concretísimo de la vida de cada persona. Hay aquí una evolución, claramente expresada por el Papa Francisco, en la percepción que la Iglesia tiene de las circunstancias condicionantes y atenuantes, circunstancias que son características de nuestra propia época:
La Iglesia posee una sólida reflexión acerca de los condicionamientos y circunstancias atenuantes. Por eso, ya no es posible decir que todos los que se encuentran en alguna situación así llamada «irregular» viven en una situación de pecado mortal, privados de la gracia santificante. Los límites no tienen que ver solamente con un eventual desconocimiento de la norma. Un sujeto, aun conociendo bien la norma, puede tener una gran dificultad para comprender «los valores inherentes a la norma» o puede estar en condiciones concretas que no le permiten obrar de manera diferente y tomar otras decisiones sin una nueva culpa. Como bien expresaron los Padres sinodales, «puede haber factores que limitan la capacidad de decisión» (AL 301).
Pero estas orientaciones ya estaban contenidas de algún modo en el famoso Nº. 84 del “Familiaris Consortio” de San Juan Pablo II, que Francisco cita varias veces, como cuando dice: “Los pastores, por amor a la verdad, están obligados a discernir bien las situaciones” (FC 84; AL 79).
San Juan Pablo II distinguió, en efecto, una gran variedad de situaciones. Supo ver una diferencia entre quienes han tratado sinceramente de salvar su primer matrimonio y fueron abandonados sin justificación y quienes han destruido un matrimonio canónicamente válido con grave culpa por su parte. Y habla luego de aquellos que afrontan un segundo enlace con la intención de sacar adelante a sus hijos y que están subjetivamente seguros en conciencia de que el primer matrimonio, ya irreparablemente roto, nunca fue válido. Cada una de estas situaciones debe ser objeto de una valoración moral distinta.
Hay realmente muchos puntos de partida diferentes para ir hacia esa participación cada vez más profunda en la vida de la Iglesia a la que todos estamos llamados. Juan Pablo II presupone ya implícitamente que no podemos decir de forma simplista que cualquier caso de una persona divorciada que se vuelve a casar equivale a una vida en pecado mortal, apartada de la comunión de amor entre Cristo y la Iglesia. Ya entonces se estaba abriendo la puerta a una comprensión cada vez mayor, mediante el discernimiento de las diversas situaciones que no son objetivamente idénticas y gracias a la valoración responsable del fuero interno.
Por eso tengo la impresión de que esto es un paso más en la evolución de nuestra comprensión de la doctrina.
La complejidad de las situaciones familiares, que hoy es mucho mayor de lo que era habitual en nuestras sociedades occidentales hace solo unas décadas, ha hecho necesario mirar esta complejidad con mayor matización. Hoy mucho más que en el pasado, la situación objetiva de una persona no lo dice todo de esa persona en cuanto a su relación con Dios o con la Iglesia. Esta evolución nos obliga a repensar qué queremos decir cuando hablamos de situaciones objetivas de pecado. Y eso lleva implícito que también evolucione paralelamente nuestra comprensión y el modo de expresar la doctrina.
Francisco ha dado un paso importante al obligarnos a clarificar algo que había permanecido implícito en “Familiaris Consortio”: el vínculo entre la objetividad de una situación de pecado y la vida de gracia en relación con Dios y con su Iglesia, y —como consecuencia lógica—la concreta imputabilidad de pecado. El cardenal Ratzinger explicó en los años 90 que ya no podemos hablar automáticamente de una situación de pecado mortal en el caso de nuevas uniones maritales. Me acuerdo de haberle preguntado al cardenal Ratzinger en 1994, con motivo de la publicación por parte de la Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe de un documento sobre personas divorciadas y casadas de nuevo: “¿Es posible que la vieja praxis que conocimos antes del concilio y que dábamos por segura, sea todavía válida?” Porque ahora esto abría la posibilidad, discerniendo en el fuero interno con nuestro confesor, de recibir los sacramentos, dado que no habría motivo de escándalo.” Su respuesta fue muy clara, respondió precisamente lo mismo que el Papa Francisco afirma: no hay una norma general que pueda cubrir todos los casos particulares. La norma general puede ser muy clara, pero es igualmente claro que esta no puede abarcar exhaustivamente todos los casos.
El Papa afirma que “en algunos casos”, cuando una persona está en situación objetiva de pecado—pero sin sentirse subjetivamente culpable o sin ser totalmente culpable—es posible vivir en gracia de Dios, amar y crecer en la vida de gracia y caridad, recibiendo para ello la ayuda de la Iglesia, incluyendo los sacramentos, también la Eucaristía, que “no es un premio para los perfectos, sino un generoso remedio y un alimento para los débiles.” ¿Cómo puede esta afirmación integrarse en la doctrina tradicional de la Iglesia? ¿Supone esto una ruptura con lo que se había dicho en el pasado?
Considerando la perspectiva del documento, creo que un punto fundamental en la elaboración de “La Alegría del Amor” es que todos nosotros—no importa a qué abstracta categoría podamos pertenecer—estamos llamados a pedir misericordia y a anhelar la conversión: “Señor, yo no soy digno de que entres en mi casa…” Cuando el Papa Francisco habla en una nota a pie de página sobre la ayuda que dan los sacramentos en algunos supuestos de situaciones irregulares, lo hace a pesar de que el problema —que es importante en sí mismo— ha sido formulado de un modo incorrecto cuando se teoriza y también a pesar de que algunos prefieren tratarlo en dircursos generalizadores antes que por medio del discernimiento individual del cuerpo de Cristo, al que todos y cada uno de nostros estamos obligados.
Con extraordinaria perspicacia, el Papa Francisco nos pide que meditemos sobre 1 Cor 11:17-34 (AL 186), que es el pasaje más importante sobre la comunión eucarística. Esto le permite resituar el problema y colocarlo precisamente allí donde San Pablo lo coloca. Es un modo sutil de marcar una hermenéutica diferente para dar respuesta a las preguntas más acuciantes. Hay que entrar en las dimensiones prácticas de la vida para “discernir el Cuerpo”, mendigando misericordia. Es posible que a alguien que lleve una vida acorde con las normas le falte discernimiento y, como Pablo dice, “come y bebe su propia condenación”.
Nos dirigimos a los sacramentos como mendigos, como aquel rcaudador de impuestos que, en la parte de atrás del templo, no se atreve a levantar los ojos. Es posible que, en ciertos casos, quien está en situación objetiva de pecado pueda recibir la ayuda de los sacramentos. El Papa nos invita no solo a valorar las circunstancias externas (que tienen su propia importancia) sino también a preguntarnos a nosotros mismos si de verdad sentimos esa sed de su perdón misericordioso, de modo que podamos corresponder mejor al dinamismo santificador de la gracia. No podemos pasar de la regla general al caso particular teniendo solo en cuenta las cuestiones formales.
Pero alguien podría preguntar: ¿y qué significa exactamente “en algunos casos”? ¿No se podría hacer una especie de inventario para aclararlo?
Así correríamos el riesgo de caer en una casuística abstracta. Y algo todavía más serio: correríamos el riesgo de crear —incluso si en la norma se incluyen excepciones— un “derecho” a recibir la Eucaristía en una situación objetiva de pecado. Creo que el Papa nos está pidiendo aquí, por amor a la verdad, que apliquemos el discernimiento en cada caso concreto, tanto en el fuero interno como en el externo.
Por favor, acláreme esto: el Papa Francisco habla aquí de una “situación objetiva de pecado”. Obviamente, no se refiere a quien haya recibido una declaración de nulidad de su primer matrimonio y que luego se casó, ni tampoco a aquellos que hayan logrado vivir juntos “como hermano y hermana” (su caso podría ser irregular, pero no viven de hecho en una situación objetiva de pecado). En consecuencia, el Papa se refiere aquí a quienes no han logrado realizar objetivamente nuestro concepto de matrimonio y transformar su modo de vida de acuerdo con esa exigencia. ¿Es así?
Así es, en efecto. Precisamente por su amplia experiencia de acompañamiento espiritual, cuando el Santo Padre habla de “situaciones objetivas de pecado” no se detiene en los tipos de casos que se describen en el nº 84 de Familiaris Consortio. Hace referencia de un modo mucho más amplio a “ciertas situaciones que no realizan objetivamente nuestra concepción del matrimonio. Hay que alentar la maduración de una conciencia iluminada” y reconocer “el peso de condicionamientos concretos”. (AL 303).
La conciencia juega un papel crucial
Ya lo creo:
“Esa conciencia puede reconocer no sólo que una situación no responde objetivamente a la propuesta general del Evangelio. También puede reconocer con sinceridad y honestidad aquello que, por ahora, es la respuesta generosa que se puede ofrecer a Dios, y descubrir con cierta seguridad moral que esa es la entrega que Dios mismo está reclamando en medio de la complejidad concreta de los límites, aunque todavía no sea plenamente el ideal objetivo” (AL 303).
“La Alegría del Evangelio,” “La Alegría del Amor”… Parece que el Papa Francisco quisiera insistir en la cuestión de la alegría. ¿por qué cree usted que es así? ¿Es necesario hablar hoy de la alegría? ¿Corremos el riesgo de perderla? ¿Quizá porque la misericordia es molesta? ¿Quizá porque estamos preocupados por la inclusión? Qué tipo de miedos despiertan las palabras del Papa en algunos? ¿Se podría explicar esto?
El llamamiento a la misericordia apunta a la necesidad de salir de nosotros mismos para practicar la misericordia y obtener a cambio la misericordia del Padre. La Iglesia de “La Alegría del Evangelio” es la Iglesia que se atreve a salir de sí misma y salir de uno mismo puede generar miedos. Tenemos que salir fuera de nuestras preconcebidas seguridades, para que así podamos reencontrarnos en Cristo. El Papa Francisco nos toma de la mano para llevarnos en la dirección correcta del testimonio y de la fe. Quiere mostrarnos un encuentro capaz de cambiar nuestra vida, un encuentro de amor que tendrá lugar solo si somos capaces de salir al encuentro de los demás.
La conversión pastoral busca continuamente esa presencia de Dios que sigue actuando hoy. Esa presencia suscita alegría, la alegría del amor. El amor es exigente; pero no hay alegría más grande que el amor.
HOMILY OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE OCCASION OF THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS
Church of the Gesù, Rome Wednesday, 31 July 2013
In this Eucharist in which we are celebrating our Father, Ignatius of Loyola, in the light of the Readings we have heard I would like to suggest three simple thoughts, guided by three concepts: putting Christ and the Church at the centre; letting ourselves be won over by him in order to serve; feeling ashamed of our shortcomings and sins so as to be humble in his eyes and in those of our brethren.
1. Our Jesuit coat of arms is a monogram bearing the acronym of “Iesus Hominum Salvator” (IHS). Each one of you could say to me: we know that very well! But this coat of arms constantly reminds us of a reality we must never forget: the centrality of Christ, for each one of us and for the whole Society which St Ignatius wanted to call, precisely, “of Jesus” to indicate its point of reference. Moreover, at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises we also place ourselves before Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Saviour (cf. EE, 6). And this brings us Jesuits and the whole Society to be “off-centre”, to stand before “Christ ever greater”, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo” , who leads us continuously out of ourselves, leads us to a certain kenosis, “to give up self love, self-seeking and self-interest”; (EE, 189). The question: “is Christ the centre of my life? For us, for any one of us, the question do I truly put Christ at the centre of my life?” should not be taken for granted. Because there is always a temptation to think that we are at the centre; and when a Jesuit puts himself and not Christ at the centre he errs. In the first Reading Moses insistently repeats to the People that they should love the Lord and walk in his ways “for that means life to you” (cf. Dt 30:16, 20). Christ is our life! Likewise the centrality of Christ corresponds to the centrality of the Church: they are two focal points that cannot be separated: I cannot follow Christ except in the Church and with the Church. And in this case too we Jesuits — and the entire Society — are not at the centre, we are, so to speak, a corollary, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ Our Lord, who is our holy Mother the hierarchical Church (cf. EE, 353). Men rooted in and founded on the Church: this is what Jesus wants us to be. There can be no parallel or isolated path. Yes, ways of research, creative ways, this is indeed important: to move out to the periphery, the many peripheries. For this reason creativity is vital, but always in community, in the Church, with this belonging that gives us the courage to go ahead. Serving Christ is loving this actual Church, and serving her generously and in a spirit of obedience.
2. What road leads to living this double centrality? Let us look at the experience of St Paul which was also the experience of St Ignatius. In the Second Reading which we have just heard, the Apostle wrote: I press on toward the perfection of Christ, because “Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil 3:12). For Paul it happened on the road to Damascus, for Ignatius in the Loyola family home, but they have in common a fundamental point: they both let Christ make them his own. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus because he sought me first, because I was won over by him: and this is the heart of our experience.
However he goes first, always. In Spanish there is very expressive word that explains it well: El nos “primerea”, he “precedes” us. He is always first. When we arrive he is already there waiting for us. And here I would like to recall the meditation on the “Kingdom in the Second Week”. Christ Our Lord, the eternal King, calls each one of us, saying: “to anyone, then, who chooses to join me, I offer nothing but a share in my hardships; but if he follows me in suffering he will assuredly follow me in glory” (EE, 95); to be won over by Christ to offer to this King our whole person and our every endeavour (cf. EE, 96); saying to the Lord that we intend to do our utmost for the more perfect service and greater praise of his Majesty, putting up with all injustice, all abuse, all poverty (cf EE, 98). But at this moment my thoughts turn to our brother in Syria. Letting Christ make us his own always means straining forward to what lies ahead, to the goal of Christ (cf. Phil 3:14), and it also means asking oneself with truth and sincerity: what have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ? (cf. EE, 53).
3. And I come to the last point. In the Gospel Jesus tells us: “whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it…. For whoever is ashamed of me…” (Lk 9:23; 26). And so forth. The shame of the Jesuit. Jesus’ invitation is to never be ashamed of him but to follow him always with total dedication, trusting in him and entrusting oneself to him. But as St Ignatius teaches us in the “First Week”, looking at Jesus and, especially, looking at the Crucified Christ, we feel that most human and most noble sentiment which is shame at not being able to measure up to him; we look at Christ’s wisdom and our ignorance, at his omnipotence and our impotence, at his justice and our wickedness, at his goodness and our evil will (cf. EE, 59). We should ask for the grace to be ashamed; shame that comes from the continuous conversation of mercy with him; shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; shame that attunes us to the heart of Christ who made himself sin for me; shame that harmonizes each heart through tears and accompanies us in the daily “sequela” of “my Lord”. And this always brings us, as individuals and as the Society, to humility, to living this great virtue. Humility which every day makes us aware that it is not we who build the Kingdom of God but always the Lord’s grace which acts within us; a humility that spurs us to put our whole self not into serving ourselves or our own ideas, but into the service of Christ and of the Church, as clay vessels, fragile, inadequate and insufficient, yet which contain an immense treasure that we bear and communicate (cf. 2 Cor 4:7).
I have always liked to dwell on the twilight of a Jesuit, when a Jesuit is nearing the end of life, on when he is setting. And two images of this Jesuit twilight always spring to mind: a classical image, that of St Francis Xavier looking at China. Art has so often depicted this passing, Xavier’s end. So has literature, in that beautiful piece by Pemán. At the end, without anything but before the Lord; thinking of this does me good. The other sunset, the other image that comes to mind as an example is that of Fr Arrupe in his last conversation in the refugee camp, when he said to us — something he used to say — “I say this as if it were my swan song: pray”. Prayer, union with Jesus. Having said these words he took the plane to Rome and upon arrival suffered a stroke that led to the sunset — so long and so exemplary — of his life. Two sunsets, two images, both of which it will do us all good to look at and to return to. And we should ask for the grace that our own passing will resemble theirs.
Dear brothers, let us turn to Our Lady who carried Christ in her womb and accompanied the Church as she took her first steps. May she help us always to put Christ and his Church at the centre of our life and our ministry. May she, who was her Son’s first and most perfect disciple, help us let Christ make us his own, in order to follow him and serve him in every situation; may she who responded with the deepest humility to the Angel’s announcement: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), enable us to feel ashamed at our own inadequacy before the treasure entrusted to us. May it also enable us to feel humility as we stand before God; and may we be accompanied on our way by the fatherly intercession of St Ignatius and of all the Jesuit Saints who continue to teach us to do all things, with humility, ad maiorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of our Lord God.
HOLY MASS ON THE LITURGICAL MEMORIAL OF THE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Church of the Gesù, Rome Friday, 3 January 2014
St Paul tells us, as we heard: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:5-9). We, Jesuits, want to be designated by the name of Jesus, to serve under the banner of the Cross, and this means: having the same mind as Christ. It means thinking like him, loving like him, seeing like him, walking like him. It means doing what he did and with his same sentiments, with the sentiments of his Heart.
The heart of Christ is the heart of a God who, out of love, “emptied” himself. Each one of us, as Jesuits, who follow Jesus should be ready to empty himself. We are called to this humility: to be “emptied” beings. To be men who are not centred on themselves because the centre of the Society is Christ and his Church. And God is the Deus semper maior, the God who always surprises us. And if the God of surprises is not at the centre, the Society becomes disorientated. Because of this, to be a Jesuit means to be a person of incomplete thought, of open thought: because he thinks always looking to the horizon which is the ever greater glory of God, who ceaselessly surprises us. And this is the restlessness of our inner abyss. This holy and beautiful restlessness!
However, because we are sinners, we can ask ourselves if our heart has preserved the restlessness of the search or if instead it has atrophied; if our heart is always in tension: a heart that does not rest, that does not close in on itself but beats to the rhythm of a journey undertaken together with all the people faithful to God. We need to seek God in order to find him, and find him in order to seek him again and always. Only this restlessness gives peace to the heart of a Jesuit, a restlessness that is also apostolic, but which must not let us grow tired of proclaiming the kerygma, of evangelizing with courage. It is the restlessness that prepares us to receive the gift of apostolic fruitfulness. Without restlessness we are sterile.
It was this restlessness that Peter Faber had, a man of great aspirations, another Daniel. Faber was a “modest, sensitive man with a profound inner life. He was endowed with the gift of making friends with people from every walk of life” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Jesuits, 22 April 2006). Yet his was also a restless, unsettled, spirit that was never satisfied. Under the guidance of St Ignatius he learned to unite his restless but also sweet — I would say exquisite — sensibility, with the ability to make decisions. He was a man with great aspirations; he was aware of his desires, he acknowledged them. Indeed for Faber, it is precisely when difficult things are proposed that the true spirit is revealed which moves one to action (cf. Memoriale, 301). An authentic faith always involves a profound desire to change the world. Here is the question we must ask ourselves: do we also have great vision and impetus? Are we also daring? Do our dreams fly high? Does zeal consume us (cf. Ps 68:10)? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our “made in the lab” apostolic programmes? Let us always remember: the Church’s strength does not reside in herself and in her organizational abilities, but it rests hidden in the deep waters of God. And these waters stir up our aspirations and desires expanding the heart. It is as St Augustine says: pray to desire and aspire to expand the heart. Faber could discern God’s voice in his desires. One goes nowhere without desire and that is why we need to offer our own desires to the Lord. The Constitutions say that: “we help our neighbour by the desires we present to the Lord our God” (Constitutions, 638).
Faber had the true and deep desire “to be expanded in God”: he was completely centred in God, and because of this he could go, in a spirit of obedience, often on foot, throughout Europe and with charm dialogue with everyone and proclaim the Gospel. The thought comes to mind of the temptation, which perhaps we might have and which so many have of condemnation, of connecting the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitorial blows. No, the Gospel is proclaimed with gentleness, with fraternity, with love. His familiarity with God led him to understand that interior experience and apostolic life always go together. He writes in his Memoriale that the heart’s first movement should be that of “desiring what is essential and primordial, that is, the first place be left to the perfect intention of finding our Lord God” (Memoriale, 63). Faber experiences the desire to “allow Christ to occupy the centre of his heart” (Memoriale, 68). It is only possible to go to the limits of the world if we are centred in God! And Faber travelled without pause to the geographic frontiers, so much so that it was said of him: “it seems he was born not to stay put anywhere” (mi, Epistolae i, 362). Faber was consumed by the intense desire to communicate the Lord. If we do not have his same desire, then we need to pause in prayer, and, with silent fervour, ask the Lord, through the intercession of our brother Peter, to return and attract us: that fascination with the Lord that led Peter to such apostolic “folly”.
We are men in tension, we are also contradictory and inconsistent men, sinners, all of us. But we are men who want to journey under Jesus’ gaze. We are small, we are sinners, but we want to fight under the banner of the Cross in the Society designated by the name of Jesus. We who are selfish want nonetheless to live life aspiring to great deeds. Let us renew then our oblation to the Eternal Lord of the universe so that by the help of his glorious Mother we may will, desire and live the mind of Christ who emptied himself. As St Peter Faber wrote, “let us never seek in this life to be tied to any name but that of Jesus” (Memoriale, 205). And let us pray to Our Lady that we may be emissaries with her Son.
CELEBRATION OF VESPERS AND TE DEUM ON THE OCCASION OF THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS
ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS
Chiesa del Gesù
Saturday, 27 September 2014
Dear brothers and friends in the Lord,
The Society under the name of Jesus has lived difficult times of persecution. During the leadership of Fr Lorenzo Ricci, “enemies of the Church succeeded in obtaining the suppression of the Society” (John Paul II, Message to Fr Kolvenbach, July 31, 1990) by my predecessor Clement XIV. Today, remembering its restoration, we are called to recover our memory, calling to mind the benefits received and the particular gifts (cf. Spiritual Exercises, 234). Today, I want to do that here with you.
In times of trial and tribulation, dust clouds of doubt and suffering are always raised and it is not easy to move forward, to continue the journey. Many temptations come, especially in difficult times and in crises: to stop to discuss ideas, to allow oneself to be carried away by the desolation, to focus on the fact of being persecuted, and not to see anything else. Reading the letters of Fr Ricci, one thing struck me: his ability to avoid being blocked by these temptations and to propose to the Jesuits, in a time of trouble, a vision of the things that rooted them even more in the spirituality of the Society.
Father General Ricci, who wrote to the Jesuits at the time, watching the clouds thickening on the horizon, strengthened them in their membership in the body of the Society and its mission. This is the point: in a time of confusion and turmoil he discerned. He did not waste time discussing ideas and complaining, but he took on the charge of the vocation of the Society. He had to preserve the Society and he took charge of it.
And this attitude led the Jesuits to experience the death and resurrection of the Lord. Faced with the loss of everything, even of their public identity, they did not resist the will of God, they did not resist the conflict, trying to save themselves. The Society – and this is beautiful – lived the conflict to the end, without minimizing it. It lived humiliation along with the humiliated Christ; it obeyed. You never save yourself from conflict with cunning and with strategies of resistance. In the confusion and humiliation, the Society preferred to live the discernment of God’s will, without seeking a way out of the conflict in a seemingly quiet manner. Or at least in an elegant way: this they did not do.
It is never apparent tranquillity that satisfies our hearts, but true peace that is a gift from God. One should never seek the easy “compromise” nor practice facile “irenicism”. Only discernment saves us from real uprooting, from the real “suppression” of the heart, which is selfishness, worldliness, the loss of our horizon. Our hope is Jesus; it is only Jesus. Thus Fr Ricci and the Society during the suppression gave priority to history rather than a possible grey “little tale”, knowing that love judges history and that hope – even in darkness – is greater than our expectations.
Discernment must be done with right intention, with a simple eye. For this reason, Fr Ricci is able, precisely in this time of confusion and bewilderment, to speak about the sins of the Jesuits. He does not defend himself, feeling himself to be a victim of history, but he recognizes himself as a sinner. Looking at oneself and recognizing oneself as a sinner avoids being in a position of considering oneself a victim before an executioner. Recognizing oneself as a sinner, really recognizing oneself as a sinner, means putting oneself in the correct attitude to receive consolation.
We can review briefly this process of discernment and service that this Father General indicated to the Society. When in 1759, the decrees of Pombal destroyed the Portuguese provinces of the Society, Fr Ricci lived the conflict, not complaining and letting himself fall into desolation, but inviting prayers to ask for the good spirit, the true supernatural spirit of vocation, the perfect docility to God’s grace. When in 1761, the storm spread to France, the Father General asked that all trust be placed in God. He wanted that they take advantage of the hardships suffered to reach a greater inner purification; such trials lead us to God and can serve for his greater glory. Then, he recommends prayer, holiness of life, humility and the spirit of obedience. In 1760, after the expulsion of the Spanish Jesuits, he continues to call for prayer. And finally, on February 21, 1773, just six months before the signing of the Brief Dominus ac Redemptor, faced with a total lack of human help, he sees the hand of God’s mercy, which invites those undergoing trials not to place their trust in anyone but God. Trust must grow precisely when circumstances throw us to the ground. Of importance for Fr Ricci is that the Society, until the last, should be true to the spirit of its vocation, which is for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.
The Society, even faced with its own demise, remained true to the purpose for which it was founded. In this light, Ricci concludes with an exhortation to keep alive the spirit of charity, unity, obedience, patience, evangelical simplicity, true friendship with God. Everything else is worldliness. The flame of the greater glory of God even today flows through us, burning every complacency and enveloping us in a flame, which we have within, which focuses us and expands us, makes us grow and yet become less.
In this way, the Society lived through the supreme test of the sacrifice unjustly asked of it, taking up the prayer of Tobit, who with a soul struck by grief, sighs, cries and then prays: “You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; all your ways are mercy and truth; you judge the world. And now, O Lord, remember me and look favorably upon me. Do not punish me for my sins and for my unwitting offenses and those that my ancestors committed before you. They sinned against you, and disobeyed your commandments. So you gave us over to plunder, exile, and death, to become the talk, the byword, and an object of reproach among all the nations among whom you have dispersed us”. It concludes with the most important request: “Do not, O Lord, turn your face away from me”. (Tb 3,1-4.6d).
And the Lord answered by sending Raphael to remove the white spots from Tobit’s eyes, so that he could once again see the light of God. God is merciful, God crowns with mercy. God loves us and saves us. Sometimes the path that leads to life is narrow and cramped, but tribulation, if lived in the light of mercy, purifies us like fire, brings much consolation and inflames our hearts, giving them a love for prayer. Our brother Jesuits in the suppression were fervent in the spirit and in the service of the Lord, rejoicing in hope, constant in tribulation, persevering in prayer (cf. Rom 12:13). And that gave honour to the Society, but certainly not in praise of its merits. It will always be this way.
Let us remember our history: “the Society was given the grace not only to believe in the Lord, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). We do well to remember this.
The ship of the Society has been tossed around by the waves and there is nothing surprising in this. Even the boat of Peter can be tossed about today. The night and the powers of darkness are always near. It is tiring to row. The Jesuits must be brave and expert rowers (Pius VII, Sollecitudo omnium ecclesiarum): row then! Row, be strong, even against a headwind! We row in the service of the Church. We row together! But while we row – we all row, even the Pope rows in the boat of Peter – we must pray a lot, “Lord, save us! Lord save your people.” The Lord, even if we are men of little faith, will save us. Let us hope in the Lord! Let us hope always in the Lord!
The Society, restored by my predecessor Pius VII, was made up of men, who were brave and humble in their witness of hope, love and apostolic creativity, which comes from the Spirit. Pius VII wrote of wanting to restore the Society to “supply himself in an adequate way for the spiritual needs of the Christian world, without any difference of peoples and nations” (ibid). For this, he gave permission to the Jesuits, which still existed here and there, thanks to a Lutheran monarch and an Orthodox monarch, “to remain united in one body.” That the Society may remain united in one body!
And the Society was immediately missionary and made itself available to the Apostolic See, committing itself generously “under the banner of the cross for the Lord and His Vicar on earth” (Formula of the Institute, 1). The Society resumed its apostolic activity of preaching and teaching, spiritual ministries, scientific research and social action, the missions and care for the poor, the suffering and the marginalized.
Today, the Society also deals with the tragic problem of refugees and displaced persons with intelligence and energy; and it strives with discernment to integrate the service of faith and the promotion of justice in conformity with the Gospel. I confirm today what Paul VI told us at our 32nd General Congregation and which I heard with my own ears: “Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme situations, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, where there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, Jesuits have been present and are present.” These are prophetic words of the future Blessed Paul VI.
In 1814, at the time of the restoration, the Jesuits were a small flock, a “least Society,” but which knew how to invest, after the test of the cross, in the great mission of bringing the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This is how we must feel today therefore: outbound, in mission. The Jesuit identity is that of a man who loves God and loves and serves his brothers, showing by example not only what he believes, but also what he hopes, and who is the One in whom he has put his trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12). The Jesuit wants to be a companion of Jesus, one who has the same feelings of Jesus.
The bull of Pius VII that restored the Society was signed on August 7, 1814, at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where our holy father Ignatius celebrated his first Mass on Christmas Eve of 1538. Mary, Our Lady, Mother of the Society, will be touched by our efforts to be at the service of her Son. May she watch over us and protect us always.
From: INTERVIEW WITH POPE FRANCIS
by Fr Antonio Spadaro for the cultural reviews of the Society of Jesus
Discernment is therefore a pillar of the spirituality of Pope Francis. It expresses in a particular manner his Jesuit identity. I ask him then how the Society of Jesus can be of service to the church today, and what characteristics set it apart. I also ask him to comment on the possible risks that the Society runs.
“The Society of Jesus is an institution in tension,” the pope replied, “always fundamentally in tension. A Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself. The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his church. So if the Society centers itself in Christ and the church, it has two fundamental points of reference for its balance and for being able to live on the margins, on the frontier. If it looks too much in upon itself, it puts itself at the center as a very solid, very well ‘armed’ structure, but then it runs the risk of feeling safe and self-sufficient. The Society must always have before itself the Deus semper maior, the always-greater God, and the pursuit of the ever greater glory of God, the church as true bride of Christ our Lord, Christ the king who conquers us and to whom we offer our whole person and all our hard work, even if we are clay pots, inadequate. This tension takes us out of ourselves continuously. The tool that makes the Society of Jesus not centered in itself, really strong, is, then, the account of conscience, which is at the same time paternal and fraternal, because it helps the Society to fulfill its mission better.”
The pope is referring to the requirement in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus that the Jesuit must “manifest his conscience,” that is, his inner spiritual situation, so that the superior can be more conscious and knowledgeable about sending a person on mission.
“But it is difficult to speak of the Society,” continues Pope Francis. “When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood. The Society of Jesus can be described only in narrative form. Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The style of the Society is not shaped by discussion, but by discernment, which of course presupposes discussion as part of the process. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. There have been periods in the Society in which Jesuits have lived in an environment of closed and rigid thought, more instructive-ascetic than mystical: this distortion of Jesuit life gave birth to the Epitome Instituti.”
The pope is referring to a compendium, formulated in the 20th century for practical purposes, that came to be seen as a replacement for the Constitutions. The formation of Jesuits for some time was shaped by this text, to the extent that some never read the Constitutions, the foundational text. During this period, in the pope’s view, the rules threatened to overwhelm the spirit, and the Society yielded to the temptation to explicate and define its charism too narrowly.
Pope Francis continues: “No, the Jesuit always thinks, again and again, looking at the horizon toward which he must go, with Christ at the center. This is his real strength. And that pushes the Society to be searching, creative and generous. So now, more than ever, the Society of Jesus must be contemplative in action, must live a profound closeness to the whole church as both the ‘people of God’ and ‘holy mother the hierarchical church.’ This requires much humility, sacrifice and courage, especially when you are misunderstood or you are the subject of misunderstandings and slanders, but that is the most fruitful attitude. Let us think of the tensions of the past history, in the previous centuries, about the Chinese rites controversy, the Malabar rites and the Reductions in Paraguay.
“I am a witness myself to the misunderstandings and problems that the Society has recently experienced. Among those there were tough times, especially when it came to the issue of extending to all Jesuits the fourth vow of obedience to the pope. What gave me confidence at the time of Father Arrupe [superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983] was the fact that he was a man of prayer, a man who spent much time in prayer. I remember him when he prayed sitting on the ground in the Japanese style. For this he had the right attitude and made the right decisions.”
A private encounter of Pope Francis with some Polish Jesuits
July 30, 2016
I want to add something now. I ask you to work with seminarians. Above all, give them what you have received from the Exercises: the wisdom of discernment. The Church today needs to grow in the ability of spiritual discernment. Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set aside concrete situations: «you must do this, you must not do this.». And then the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults. Because many are asking: «can you do this or can you not?». That’s all. And many people leave the confessional disappointed. Not because the priest is bad, but because the priest doesn’t have the ability to discern situations, to accompany them in authentic discernment. They don’t have the needed formation. Today the Church needs to grow in discernment, in the ability to discern. And priests above all really need it for their ministry. This is why we need to teach it to seminarians and priests in formation: they are the ones usually entrusted with the confidences of the conscience of the faithful. Spiritual direction is not solely a priestly charism, but also lay, it is true. But, I repeat, you must teach this above all to priests, helping them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment, which respects the law but knows how to go beyond. This is an important task for the Society. A thought of Fr. Hugo Rahner has often struck me. He thought clearly and wrote clearly! Hugo said that the Jesuit must be a man with the nose for the supernatural, that is he must be a man gifted with a sense of the divine and of the diabolical relative to the events of human life and history. The Jesuit must therefore be capable of discerning both in the field of God and in the field of the devil. This is why in the Exercises St Ignatius asks to be introduced both to the intentions of the Lord of life and to those of the enemy of human nature and to his lies. What he has written is bold, it is truly bold, but discernment is precisely this! We need to form future priests not to general and abstract ideas, which are clear and distinct, but to this keen discernment of spirits so that they can help people in their concrete life. We need to truly understand this: in life not all is black on white or white on black. No! The shades of grey prevail in life. We must them teach to discern in this grey area.
In these years of Francis’ pontificate, he has addressed the Jesuits many times, so that the Society gathered in the General Congregation had already, in some way, a «previous discourse» of Pope Francis that can serve the Jesuits as inspiration and guide them on their path. A «previous» discourse of a «big brother» as Laynez called Faber, but a big brother who is the Pope, to whom we, «with renewed impulse and fervor», offer our vow of obedience, taken into consideration since the beginning of the Society «as our first and principal foundation».
What we have called the «previous discourse» is composed of different allocutions that Pope Francis has addressed to the Jesuits. They are placed in clear continuity with this discourse. They gratefully make memory of a past that is passionately present: the graces of the Lord that have identified us and continue to identify us with the Society. «We are called to recover our memory, to make memory, calling to mind the benefits received and the particular gifts» (Esercizi Spirituali [ES], n. 234).
A Pope who is a Jesuit makes «memory», but he must be Pope first for us rather than Jesuit. If other Popes have reminded us of these graces, Francis does it knowing them from within our condition as Jesuits. With some frequency, he is recognized explicitly Jesuit: he explains, with simplicity, almost softly, but without twisting words, the great and strong characteristics of our spirituality and identity.
What has the Pope said to us? This is what we propose to demonstrate in this article, with the awareness, however, of the difficulties it entails. We will try to be as objective as possible in presenting the characteristic themes, even though we are all inclined to select those aspects that agree better with our theological, pastoral, social, and even religious and spiritual sensibilities, but we must make an effort to welcome all the reflections that the Pope offers us broadmindedly and with generosity of spirit, above all when they recommit us to our way of living and to our mission.
Centrality of Christ
Our characteristic monogram, IHS, points us to—the Pope said on the feast of St Ignatius in 2013—a reality that we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us for the entire Society. Jesus is our center and sole reference. It follows that every Jesuit and the body of the Society must always be «decentralized», never becoming «self-referential»; this displacement leads us to have before our eyes «the God always greater» who continually draws us out of ourselves and pushes us to a certain kenosis, to «go out of his self-love, will and interest» (ES n. 189).
To the serene proposal, but essential for our vocation, he added the suggestion of a question not taken for granted by all of us: is Christ the center of my life? Do I truly put Christ at the center of my life? The Pope does not exclude the eventuality that this «centering» our existence in Christ remains subjected to the temptation of thinking of ourselves being at the center. «And in this case the Jesuit is wrong» Francis clearly says.
The same idea returns, some months later, in the homily for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 2, 2014). We Jesuits want to be distinguished with the name of Jesus, which means having the same feelings as Jesus. But the heart of Christ is the heart of a God who through love is «emptied». Each one of us must be disposed to empty himself. In this circumstance Pope Francis uses the term «emptied himself» rather than «decentered himself» with a reference to the Christological hymn of the Letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:5-11).
We are called to be «emptied», Francis comments, men who must not be living centered on themselves, because the center of the Society of Jesus is Christ and his Church. And the Pope draws attention on the consequence that persists in distancing ourselves from a similar «decentralization»: «If the God of surprises is not at the center it disorients the Society»
In the interview released by Fr. Spadaro, in September of 2013, the Pope is asked how the Society can serve the Church today, with what peculiar traits, and what risks may threaten it. The answer is long and touches on diverse questions, but the first words are clear: «The Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself. The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his Church. […] If it looks too much in upon itself, it puts itself at the center as a very sold, very well “armed” structure, but then it runs the risk of feeling safe and self-sufficient».
Feeling ourselves «safe and sufficient» is the danger that threatens the Society and is in contrast, according to the Pope, to the «being» of the Jesuit. Francis speaks of the Jesuit and all the Society; «being decentered» is the attitude precisely not only of every Jesuit, but of the entire body of the Society. A security and institutional sufficiency, that have often threatened the history of the Society, contradict its most original roots and most glorious moments in how it is marked by martyrdom.
Francis leads us to our strongest identifying roots: the Spiritual Exercises. In them we are taught to ask of the Lord «to love him and follow him more» as a prayerful expression of our desire to identify ourselves with the poor and humble Christ that is formulated in the «meditation on the two standards», of our desire «to be received under his standard» (ES 147). The Spirit leads us to that «third degree of humility», the synthesis of Ignatian mysticism in identification with Christ: «imitate and be in reality more like Christ our Lord, I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor, rather than riches; insults with Christ loaded with them, rather than honors; I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world» (ES 167).
The Exercises are a personal experience that «conform» the Jesuit to Him who called him to this vocation, but their dynamic of imitation and of following Christ «forms» the entire body of the Society in the Constitutions (Cost.) as the «way» to realize the Ignatian charism in the Church.
Ignatius had the audacity to present, to those who wanted to enter into the Society, the prospect that they must « they desire to suffer injuries, false accusations, and affronts, and to be held and esteemed as fools (but without their giving any occasion for this), 5because of their desire to resemble and imitate in some manner our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ» (Cost. 101).
This «conformation» of the Society to Christ is revealed in the experience at La Storta, interpreted from the first moment as an «institutional grace» and not simply as a personal grace of Ignatius. The elements of the vision are based on the choice of Ignatius and of his companions, the Society, on the part of the Father, to be placed with the Son who takes the cross upon himself. Thus are we granted the grace to be received under the standard of Christ in poverty and humility. The 35th General Congregation comments regarding this: « We Jesuits, then, find our identity not alone but in companionship: in companionship with the Lord, who calls, and in companionship with others who share this call. Its root is to be found in Saint Ignatius’s experience at La Storta» (D II, 3).
The Society will be «safe» and it will feel «sufficient» not when it will look to itself, but will know to live with the desire to conform itself to the poor and humble Christ of the Exercises, to the God incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, the ultimate model of «decentralization» in history. This is the identity that the Pope recalls to us with so much clarity and insistence.
And when Ignatius and his companions wanted to present to the Church, with the approval of the Society, a synthesis of its identity in the Formula dell’Istituto, they did not hesitate to place God at the center: the first concern of the Jesuit must be that of «having in front of his eyes, always, before any other thing, God» (curet primo Deum). Pope Francis leads us here with almost the same words. At the same time, to define the identity of the Society, in the Formula a strong accent is place on the cross: «Anyone who wants to soldier for God under the banner of the cross in our Society and to serve only the Lord and the Roman Pontiff, his vicar on earth…».
The Formula then warns us about the need to examine ourselves to unmask deceptions: «ponder long and seriously, as the Lord has counseled, whether they possess among their resources enough spiritual capital to complete this tower» (n. 4). Only thus will personal and apostolic discernment, the discrete caritas, availability, the strength of the magis for a bigger and better missionary service, the experience of friendship among «companions of Jesus» be possible: well-known, these, both identify us and ensure «the preservation and growth of this whole body» (Cost. 814).
Pope Francis reminded the Society of one of the more meaningful moments of its humiliation and identification with Christ. In the Solemn Vespers of September 27, 2014, on the anniversary of the bicentennial of the restoration of the Society, he said: «The Society – and this is beautiful – lived the conflict to the end, without minimizing it. It lived humiliation along with the humiliated Christ; it obeyed. […] Let us remember our history: “the Society was given the grace not only to believe in the Lord, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). We do well to remember this».
At the service of the Church
To this centrality of Crist is united the centrality of the Church, and Francis expresses this idea with a metaphor: «They are two fires that cannot be separated». The Pope starts from an affirmation valid for every Christian: «You cannot follow Christ if not inthe Church and with the Church» and he applies it specifically to the Jesuits: «And in this case too we Jesuits — and the entire Society — are not at the center, we are, so to speak, a corollary, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ Our Lord, who is our holy Mother the hierarchical Church (cf. EE, 353)».
To this concept so Ignatian, Pope Francis also made a reference in the letter that on March 16, 2013, three days after his election, he wrote to the Father General. In it, he thanked him for the full availability to «to continue serving the Church and the Vicar of Christ unconditionally, in accordance with the precept of St Ignatius of Loyola». And then he offers his prayers for all the Jesuits, «so that — faithful to the charism they have received and in the footsteps of the saints of our beloved Order — with their pastoral action, and above all with the witness of a life dedicated without reserve to serving the Church, Bride of Christ — they may be a Gospel leaven in the world, tirelessly seeking the glory of God and the good of souls».
This first message of a Jesuit Pope to the Society cannot pass unnoticed. It is not just simple, formal expressions, nor is it only a courtesy letter: in it is expressed the core that most identifies our vocation. The letter is short, and almost all addressed to recalling our special relations with the Church and the Roman Pontiff. In it there is no explicit reference to the fourth vow, but he mentions it there: «in accordance with the precept of St Ignatius of Loyola»; and he reiterates the idea of service: «to continue serving the Church and the Vicar of Christ unconditionally […], a life dedicated without reserve to serving the Church, Bride of Christ».
In the homily he proclaimed for the Feast of St Ignatius in 2013, the Pope insisted on the fact that it is a unique «centrality» with two dimensions. Therefore, he can say in no uncertain terms: «Serving Christ is loving this actual Church, and serving her generously and in a spirit of obedience».
The Jesuit must love and serve a concrete and historic Church. Ignatius urges us to love the Church that is a pilgrim in this world, subjected to temptation, and formed by weak men and sinners, needy of the mercy of the Father. In the interview released by Fr. Spadaro, Pope Francis presents his image of Church: «It is that of the holy, faithful people of God». To think with the Church, for Francis, means being in the midst of this people. «It is the experience of the “holy mother hierarchical Church”, […] the Church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The Church is the totality of the people of God».
How to serve the Church
The Pope emphasizes a principal of behavior of the Jesuit and of the Society in the Church: «There can be no parallel or isolated paths». Then «shortcuts» built by ourselves are of no value, where we may feel ourselves «safe» and «sufficient», nor views of the world beginning from our center. Here he presents a temptation to us, when we want to take decisions beginning from «our center», and not from the «center» of Christ and his Church. Then we lose the capacity to apostolically discern—knowing how God and the Church want to make use of the Society—and to examine ourselves and tell ourselves truly how we are, where we turn our gaze, what are our horizons.
The Society will find itself in many apostolic fields, but always in the Church, «with this belonging that gives us the courage to go ahead». And the Pope makes reference to the two values of research and peripheries: «Yes, ways of research, creative ways, this is indeed important: to move out to the periphery, the many peripheries. For this reason creativity is vital, but always in community, in the Church».
Pope Francis urges us to be present in two important and current missionary horizons: research and peripheries, in whatever their modality, and to develop in them great creativity, but always «in the Church», «avoiding the spiritual illness of self-referentiality». And to give strength to his affirmation regarding the Society, he adds: «When the Church becomes self-referential she too falls ill and ages».
The Pope then points out another way to serve the Church: that of serving the Roman Pontiff, collaborating with his ministry. In the celebration of the bicentennial of the restoration of the Society, referring to the words of Pope Pius VII in the Bull of restoration, he asks the Jesuits to be «brave and expert rowers», and immediately after he urged them thus: «Row, be strong, even against a headwind! We row in the service of the Church. We row together!». Therefore, the Pope invites us to row with him, because «the boat of Peter can be tossed about today». The service that Francis asks of us is realized in the Church and in help to the Roman Pontiff: «to row with him».
This idea is linked with what many Popes have asked of the Society, but had special importance in the discourse of the Pope Emeritus at the 35th General Congregation (2008). Pope Benedict told us that he counts on the Society, that he wants us to be loyal collaborators; and he pushed us to fulfill the important and difficult service of making ourselves «loyally take on the Church’s fundamental duty to remain faithful to her mandate and to adhere totally to the Word of God and to the Magisterium’s task of preserving the integral truth and unity of Catholic doctrine».
The Jesuit, a sinful man
To the question addressed to him by Fr. Spadaro: «Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?», the Pope gave a surprising answer: «I am a sinner». Then he reinforces his answer: «This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner». And immediately after he affirms: «I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon». To us Jesuits the words from the 32nd GC come to mind, when there we were asked: «What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus» (D II, 1). Father Bergoglio had taken part at that Congregation, and definitely these words now resonate in his heart: he is defining himself as a Jesuit.
In the homily for the Feast of St Ignatius of 2013, Pope Francis speaks of the «shame of the Jesuit». Contemplating the crucified Christ, in the first week of the Exercises, we are taken by the feeling, so human and so noble, that is the shame of not being good enough. «And this always brings us, as individuals and as the Society, to humility, to living this great virtue. […] Humility that spurs us to put our whole self not into serving ourselves or our own ideas, but into the service of Christ and of the Church, as clay vessels, fragile, inadequate and insufficient, yet which contain an immense treasure that we bear and communicate».
The Pope does not speak of a humility that is confused or that is expressed with devout acts, but he refers to the humility that identifies us with Jesus Christ poor and humiliated, with God incarnate on the cross, both when we must confront misunderstandings and when we become objects of misunderstandings and calumnies; but this is the more fertile attitude. And the Pope cites the Chinese rites, the Malabar rites, the Reductions of Paraguay, misunderstandings and problems experienced also in recent times.
This humility is throughout all of the spirituality of the Society, and finds expression in these two terms, apparently contradictory, that also complete the identity of the Society: magis and minima. These two correlative terms makes sense only when they supplement each other. The Ignatian «more» is always the desired answer–«because the more you love him and follow him»—, that pushes the Jesuit to desire poverty and humiliation more than wealth and honors, to imitate and follow Jesus Christ more.
The «more» understands the «less», and is realized in «diminshing», that is the true humility. The Society is «least» in its identity, because that implies «being submissive… and serving…». Apostolic magis is then composed of inquiry, gratuity and availability, that lead us to «diminish», to not be at the center, to leave our security and «in Him alone must be placed the hope» (Cost. 812).
The Jesuit, man of open thought, of great desires, always in search
In the interview cited, the Pope affirms that the Jesuit is a man «of incomplete thought, of open thought». And he explains the reason: «The Jesuit thinks again and again, looking to the horizon, toward which he must advance, with Christ at the center. This is his true strength». In effect his «decentralization» keeps him in search, makes him creative, generous.
Pope Francis returns to this idea in the homily of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, January 3, 2014. The Jesuits are men in search, because «they think always looking to the horizon which is the ever greater glory of God, who ceaselessly surprises us. And this is the restlessness of our inner abyss. This holy and beautiful restlessness!».
Francis holds present that which most characterized St Ignatius and his spirituality: the search for the will of God, so meaningfully manifested in Ignatius’ Autobiography, when he defines himself as «the pilgrim». The Pope speaks of restlessness of the heart—because God is surprise—, that he asks: «What does God want of me?». Here the ultimate end of the spiritual process of the Exercises, the fruit of the long Jesuit formation to learn to seek and to find God in all things finds meaning. To find the will of God is the object of the tool so Ignatian that is discernment.
Pope Francis is leading us «For where the Society’s first members have passed through» to revive the gift, in a way that, with the grace of God, we may push ourselves «or to go farther in the Lord» (Cost. 81). He is leading us to the Preface of the Constitutions, that exhort us to be guided, more than from Rules and external observance, «the interior law of charity and love which the Holy Spirit writes and imprints upon hearts» (Cost. 134).
And so in order to not deceive ourselves, once again the Pope proposes to make this examination of conscience: «if our heart has preserved the restlessness of the search or if instead it has atrophied; if our heart is always in tension: a heart that does not rest, that does not close in on itself but beats to the rhythm of a journey undertaken together with all the people faithful to God». It is not only a spiritual restlessness, but «a restlessness that is also apostolic […]. It is the restlessness that prepares us to receive the gift of apostolic fruitfulness. Without restlessness we are sterile». And again he warns us: «May our gaze, firmly fixed on Christ, be prophetic and dynamic in looking to the future. Thus you will remain ever young and bold in interpreting events!».
In addition, the Pope present Faber with this characteristic trait: a restless spirit, indecisive, never satisfied, who learns, under the guidance of Ignatius, to unite his restless, but sweet, sensibility with the capacity to take decisions. A man of great desires, of great aspirations. In his desires, Faber was able discern the voice of God.
And the Pontiff added the apostolic aspect of such desires: «An authentic faith always involves a profound desire to change the world». Francis recalls the Constitutions: «we help our neighbor by the desires we present to the Lord our God» (Const. 638). In effect, in the Spiritual Exercises, in the letters and in the Constitutions Ignatius urges us very often to nourish «the good and great desires» and to concentrate them in Jesus Christ. He made it a personal experience in his spiritual process, as referred to in the Diary and in the Autobiography.
Looking to Faber, Pope Francis asks us: «Do we also have great vision and impetus? Are we also daring? Do our dreams fly high? Does zeal consume us? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our “made in the lab” apostolic programs?» Still in the homily of January 3, 2014, the Pope mentions the Church as a reference for the Society: «Let us always remember: the Church’s strength does not reside in herself and in her organizational abilities, but it rests hidden in the deep waters of God. And these waters stir up our aspirations and desires expanding the heart. It is as St Augustine says: pray to desire and aspire to expand the heart»
The Jesuit, man of the frontier
In the audience with La Civiltà Cattolica, Francis defines us as men of the frontier: «Your proper place is at the frontier. This is the place of Jesuits. […] Please, be men of the frontier, with that capacity that comes from God”. There is never a lack to that allusion of the center of the identity of the Jesuit, the place from which these notes of his «profile» can flow, in the Pope.
And he specifies also how he needs to go towards the frontier: «do not give in to the temptation of domesticating these frontiers: it is essential to go out to the frontiers but not to bring frontiers home to touch them up with a little varnish and tame them». And he again defines the Jesuit’s mission as service for the Church: «It is a question of supporting the Church’s action in all the fields of her mission».
In the interview released by Fr. Spadaro, Pope Francis clarifies his thought on the frontier a bit more: «I am referring in a particular way to the need for those who work in the world of culture to be embedded into the context in which they work and on which they reflect». Evidently, he was making a reference to the work of thinkers and writers; but then he enlarges his thought and states: «There is always the lurking danger of living in a laboratory. […] I am afraid of laboratories because the problems are taken to the laboratory, and then taken home so as to be tamed, to paint them out of their context. You cannot bring the frontier home, but you have to live on the border and be bold»
The faith is always an inculturated faith, a faith that is way, a faith that is history: God is made flesh revealing himself in a concrete history. Here the reference is Father Arrupe and his letter to the CIAS (Centros de Investigación y Acción Social), that the Pope defined as «genial»; in it is clearly said that you cannot speak of poverty if you do not experience it.
In the celebration of the bicentennial of the restoration of the Society, Pope Francis summarized the work of the Society at the frontier of our time: refugees and displaced persons, integration of service with faith and the promotion of justice, and he recalled, making it his own, the words of Paul VI at the 32nd GC, that he himself heard with his own ears: «Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme situations, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, where there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, Jesuits have been present and are present». Francis added: «These are prophetic words of the future Blessed Paul VI». Even Pope Benedict, in his song, took these demanding and encouraging words of Pope Montini.
Three Popes, therefore, have sent the Society the same message. Words of trust and esteem, but also very demanding, because they recall the ecclesial meaning of our vocation.
The Jesuit, man of dialogue
In the audience granted to La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis retraces its defensive history and fidelity to the Church and reminds the writers that their «duty is not to build walls but bridges; it is to establish a dialogue with all people, even those who do not share the Christian faith […] and even, “those who oppose the Church and persecute her in various ways” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 92)». And to dialogue, one needs to lower one’s guard and to open doors. The Pope encourages the writer to continue the dialogue with cultural, social, political institutions, to offer a contribution for the common good.
In the Pope’s words the figure of his model of the Jesuit returns to make itself present. We may wonder at the fact that when the Pope reads these words of Faber: «Whoever wants to draw close to the heretics of this age must have a lot of love with them and love them inveritate» communicating «familiarity with them», he is left struck by them and comments: «His dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents…».
The Jesuit, man of discernment
What we have reported up to her recalls that the Jesuit is a man who has the gift of discernment «who seeks to recognize in the human and cultural situation the presence of God’s Spirit, the seed of his presence already sown in events, in sensibilities, in desires and in the heart’s profound aspirations and in social, cultural and spiritual contexts». Pope Francis defines spiritual discernment «a treasure of the Jesuits». And he states he was left struck by the observation of Hugo Rahner, for whom the Jesuit «is a specialist in discernment in the field of God and also in that of the Devil». We don’t need to be afraid to continue in discernment to find the truth.
When Fr. Spadaro asks him what aspect of Ignatian spirituality helps him the most to live his ministry, Francis answered: «Discernment. Discernment is one of the things that worked inside of St Ignatius. For him it is an instrument of struggle in order to know the Lord and follow him more closely». And he added: «This discernment takes time. […] I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment. Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought to do later. […] The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong».
In the celebration of the bicentennial of the restoration, Pope Francis made very precise observations on discernment: «in a time of confusion and turmoil […], in the confusion and humiliation, the Society preferred to live the discernment of God’s will, without seeking a way out of the conflict in a seemingly quiet manner. Or at least in an elegant way: this they did not do».
In other discourses, the Pope expounds on, almost incidentally, the conditions in order that a true spiritual discernment is given. For example, he refers to right intention, a simple gaze, to the fact that «discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the felling of the people, especially the poor».
Regarding the suppression of the Society, Pope Francis refers to what Fr. Lorenzo Ricci said about the sins of the Jesuits. In fact, discernment does not seek the easy «compromise», it saves us from real uprooting, from the real “suppression” of the heart, which is selfishness, worldliness, the loss of our horizon, of our hope, which is only Jesus, when we seek what God asks.
In narrative form
We can in conclusion, add a note on «how» the Pope addressed the Jesuits in the «previous discourse». In the interview released by Fr. Spadaro, he states that “the Society can only be described in narrative form. Only in the narrative from do you discern». In effect the Pope has «narrated» us, with clarity and insistence, the Society’s identity, centered on Christ and on the Church: «To serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross and to serve the Lord alone and the Church his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff».
The Pope has «narrated» us, so that we, making «memory», place ourselves in an attitude of discernment and, grateful for so much good received, examine if we are in that «center» and, once «decentered» from ourselves, desire to live under the banner of Jesus: only thus will we be able to know how and in what the Lord and his Church want to be served by this «least» Society.
The Pope’s narrative language does not lead him to get lost in secondary questions. He brings us back, as in a serene conversation with his brother Jesuits, to the origins, where «the first ones came», to where, through them, the gift of the Spirit overflows to the Church; and in a very Ignatian way questions himself, he a Jesuit, and questions us Jesuits, on our life and on our mission in reference to that core identity.
Following the example of Faber, Pope Francis talked to us with sweetness, with brotherhood, with love, in truth, like a «big brother»; and, like Faber, he also invites us to have the desire to «allow Christ to occupy the center of our heart», because «it is only possible to go to the limits of the world if we are centered in God»
(translation by Reyanna Rice)
 Cfr Fontes Narrativae Societatis Iesu (FN), I, 104
 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Decree 1.
 P. Fabro, Spiritual memories, Rome – Milan, Civiltà Cattolica – Corriere della Sera, 2014, 18; Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI), 63, 162.
 Pope Francis, Vespers and «Te Deum» on the bicentenary of the restoration of the Society, September 27, 2014.
 Cfr Id., Homily on the feast of St Ignatius, July 31, 2013.
 A. Spadaro, «Interview with Pope Francis», in Civ. Catt. 2013 III 454 s
 «Formule dell’Istituto 1539, 1540, 1550», in Ignatian Sources, MCo I, 373- 383.
 Pope Francis, Vespers and «Te Deum» on the bicentennial of the restoration of theSociety, cit.
 Besides the discourse cited in the text, Pope Francis has proclaimed discourses for groups of Jesuits and laity who work in various apostolic fields: the Latin American Congress of former students (November 2015); Former students from Uruguay (October 2013); Gregorian University (April 2014); Vatican Observatory (June 2014, September 2015); Astalli Center (September 2013); Jesuit Refugee Service (November 2015); Youth Eucharistic Movement (August 2015).
 Paul VI, Discourse to the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, n. 2.
The petrine ministry of a Jesuit: a positive challenge for the Society
The Pope entered naturally like a Jesuit father among others. But his white cassock marked a visible difference. But it did not take away the perception that there is a deep bond between us and him. We began by praying.
A historic event: this was the encounter of General Congregation of the Jesuits with Pope Francis. The first to be aware of this event was precisely Father General Arturo Sosa who asked the Jesuits to prepare themselves spiritually for this encounter. It’s never happened that there was a Jesuit Pontiff intervuenes at a General Congregation of the Jesuits. His discourse then assumes for the Society a truly strong, special value. But, even before his discourse, it is the presence of the Pope itself to have an extremely meaningful value, also for its unusual modality: an audience in the Hall of the Congregation itself which lasted for hours of free and spontaneous encounter in an open and relaxed climate, as perhaps had not happened for a long time.
The Society is taking greater awareness that the petrine ministry is today carried out by a person formed in its womb and its spirituality, that of discernment. Many characteristics of the current pontificate, moreover, are understandable in their roots only by considering the spirituality in which the Pontiff grew humanly and spiritually. Therefore, Francis represents a positive challenge for the Society, and a specific incentive of prayer, reflection and assumption of responsibility.
A “blurred” portrait of the Society of Jesus
The Pope began his discourse by painting a portrait of the Society. That it is not a “still life” but a multifaceted framework and in motion. The Society itself—he said—is “in progress”, in becoming. This makes it flexible, freely elastic. He immediately framed it—also in the light of his predecessor’s statements—in journey as free and obedient people. And you walk only if you truly get down on the street. The Society cannot balconear, as he once said: you cannot look at reality from a balcony, study it, analyze it and, still from the balcony, sentence it. We must enter inside it, stay at the crossroads of history, at the social front lines, there where there is the «confrontation between the deepest desires of the human person and the perennial message of the Gospel», as Pope Paul VI said. Reflection, contemplation and action are always together if we do not want to be ideological.
Not fixed objectives but mobile horizons
But it is not enough to walk. Where must you go? In his discourse to the Congregation, Francis implicitly warned us about holding too many clear and distinct objectives as in business planning. The horizon that orients the journey is the Glory of God who is always greater, he said. That is: the Society must walk having before itself a horizon that changes continually and enlarges. The portrait of the Society painted by the Pope is then dynamic, «incomplete» in itself and «open». The Jesuits are called not to «reach objectives» like in a shooting gallery, but to walk, evangelically accompanying the processes in which human beings are involved and having as a horizon line the glory of God. Accompanying horizons not conquering spaces. It is, in essence, walking with the Lord Jesus: we are called to walk with him and to go where he goes. And at times we don’t even know where he is going. We discover it by walking, ready to change direction, moves and methods with him. Only if the Society walks with Jesus towards the horizon is it able to understand itself. The Society is mobile. This is why for the Jesuit, any place in the world is home. If it is not he becomes «functionalist» and rigid: he is tangled, that is he begins to concentrate turning round and round himself but at the end uselessly.
Only one «priority»: discernment
This walking however is a journey neither comfortable nor solitary. It is not a journey to find oneself, not even for one’s own personal salvation. Francis tells us that to walk in Ignatius’ words means first of all «to labour strenuously in giving aid toward the salvation and perfection of the souls of their neighbours” (General Examen, I, 2). The Pope seems to favor the original «Formula of the Institute», that of Paul III of 1540, Regimini militanti Ecclesiae, that puts as the focus before the Society that of concerning itself «in the progress of souls in life and in Christian doctrine». Therefore, the Pope doesn’t entrust to the Society objectives or preferences if they are not for the «progress of souls». He does not provide lists of works to be carried out or objectives to reach or territories to «conquer». Rather he simply says that the Society «is where it needs to be». Although with prophetic and diplomatic audacity. And where is that? The answer is that the content of the mission is the fruit of a continuous discernment and always in development. The center remains the «Formula of the Institute»: the rest belongs to history, to becoming, to the circumstances. The Society lives and must live tensions, it is restless. Francis wants to touch the beating heart, the hot and powerful core of the Society’s charism, the «Formula» exactly: he removes the layers that protect it and he shows the Jesuits the essentials to remember. The Pope speaks of a return to the heart, or rather of a «fire». And he quotes one of the first Jesuits, Fr. Jeronimo Nadal, who said: «The Society is fervor» derived from the Latin fervor, that is «boiling».
Three ways of taking steps forward
This much said, the Pope provides as well three «ways of proceeding» for the mission that he summarizes in three words: «consolation», «compassion» and «feeling with the Church». The expression used by Francis is of note: podemos dar un pasito adelante that is «we can take a step forward». It is not the invitation to take the «long jump», but to take a step at a time, one after the other. But always adelante, forward. There is a progress to which we are always called, and that is to do with humility and decision. Here’s the three ways:
Consolation. We live in a wounded world and the Jesuit is also a wounded man. The world is often moved by fear and reacts lending an ear to the desolations and fears. For Francis only if we experience the restoring strength of consolation in the heart of our wounds—both as people and as the Society—can we wake up from our torpor, walking and helping others. Then we must ask for consolation—the Pope says—«insistently». The usual state of the Jesuit must be consolation. This is the experience Francis invites us to make, then: to let ourselves be consoled by God and to live our ministry as a minister of consolation bringing into the world reconciliation, justice, mercy. And in this Francis himself was a model speaking in his higher magisterial texts of guadium, laudation, and laetitia, that are synonyms of consolation for him. And he adds: for the Pope «the nearest human attitude to God’s grace is humor».
Compassion. The Pope asks us to let ourselves by moved by the crucified Lord and standing at the foot of the cross to feel ourselves loved by him. This is the experience that leads us to be sensitive to the pain of humanity, to experience compassion. «Where there is pain, there the Society is» said Father Arrupe. Only if we experience the healing strength of the compassion of Jesus crucified can we be healed and heal others. This pushes us to commitment for justice and to be with the poor and for their part.
Discernment «feeling» with the Church. The Pope asks us to proceed doing our discernment «feeling with the Church», our Mother. There are many ways to reform the Church, but some of these ways are anti-ecclesial, fruit of the «bad spirit». Instead, Francis says that it is not enough to reform the Church because it would be an ideological operation and therefore «clerical». We need to do it with the «good spirit», fruit of discernment, in an «ecclesial» manner. The Jesuit must be within the Church that lives in history not that of our utopias and our desires. And at times that involves even making us carry our cross and experience humiliation. We also need to listen to all the criticisms, even those that are malicious, and to discern. We must never close doors. This is not to justify questionable positions, but to leave the space open to what the Spirit is doing or what he will do in his time. The Jesuit acts within the Church trusting the action of the Spirit within it.
Companions in journey….
At the end of this discourse, Francis turns to Mary with the appellation of «Our Lady of the Street». The Society is not only a group of men with the same ideals, but a group of friends who are on the street in journey with Jesus, a step at a time.
At the end of our encounter, the words of a letter of Ignatius on the occasion of the election of the Pontiff Marcello in April 1555 came to mind: «To Our Lord God, who wanted to give to his Church such a leader, please increase in him a great spirit, as it is necessary in so high a ministry».
The Buenos Aires Pastoral Region (Argentina), where Cardinal Bergoglio used to work, encompasses the city of Buenos Aires and nearby cities, with a population of more than 13 million inhabitants. The Region is made up by more than 20 Bishops. Recently, they have sent their priests a document explaining their criteria on the potential access to sacraments of “the divorced who have entered a new union”. What makes this message particularly interesting is that it was sent to Pope Francis, who answered it with a letter stating that “the document is very good and thoroughly specifies the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia. There are no further interpretations”. Therefore, the Bishops’ letter makes it possible to unambiguously recognize the correct interpretation of the papal document regarding the true scope of chapter VIII. The Pope also asked the Bishops to help disseminate the entire document, which is an invitation to consolidate marriages.
Buenos Aires Pastoral Region — Basic criteria for the implementation of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia
we have received with joy the exhortation Amoris laetitia, which invites us, above all, to encourage the growth of love between spouses and to motivate the youth to opt for marriage and a family. These are important issues that should never be disregarded or overshadowed by other matters. Francis has opened several doors in pastoral care for families and we are invited to leverage this time of mercy with a view to endorsing, as a pilgrim Church, the richness offered by the different chapters of this Apostolic Exhortation.
We will now focus on chapter VIII, since it refers to the “guidelines of the bishop” (300) in order to discern on the potential access to sacraments of the “divorced who have entered a new union”. We deem it convenient, as Bishops of the same Pastoral Region, to agree on some basic criteria. We present them without prejudice to the authority that each Bishop has over his own Diocese to clarify, complete or restrict them.
1) Firstly, we should remember that it is not advisable to speak of “permissions” to have access to sacraments, but of a discernment process in the company of a pastor. It is a “personal and pastoral discernment” (300).
2) In this path, the pastor should emphasize the fundamental proclamation, the kerygma, so as to foster or renew a personal encounter with the living Christ (cf. 58).
3) Pastoral accompaniment is an exercise of the “via caritatis”. It is an invitation to follow “the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement” (296). This itinerary requires the pastoral charity of the priest who receives the penitent, listens to him/her attentively and shows him/her the maternal face of the Church, while also accepting his/her righteous intention and good purpose to devote his/her whole life to the light of the Gospel and to practise charity (cf. 306).
4) This path does not necessarily finish in the sacraments; it may also lead to other ways of achieving further integration into the life of the Church: greater presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, engagement in ecclesial services, etc. (cf. 299)
5) Whenever feasible depending on the specific circumstances of a couple, especially when both partners are Christians walking the path of faith, a proposal may be made to resolve to live in continence. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties arising from this option (cf. footnote 329) and offers the possibility of having access to the sacrament of Reconciliation if the partners fail in this purpose (cf. footnote 364, recalling the teaching that Saint John Paul II sent to Cardinal W. Baum, dated 22 March, 1996).
6) In more complex cases, and when a declaration of nullity has not been obtained, the above mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is still possible. If it is acknowledged that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351). These sacraments, in turn, prepare the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace.
7) However, it should not be understood that this possibility implies unlimited access to sacraments, or that all situations warrant such unlimited access. The proposal is to properly discern each case. For example, special care should be taken of “a new union arising from a recent divorce” or “the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family” (298). Also, when there is a sort of apology or ostentation of the person’s situation “as if it were part of the Christian ideal” (297). In these difficult cases, we should be patient companions, and seek a path of reinstatement (cf. 297, 299).
8) It is always important to guide people to stand before God with their conscience. A useful tool to do this is the “examination of conscience” proposed by Amoris laetitia 300, specifically in relation to “how did they act towards their children” or the abandoned partner. Where there have been unresolved injustices, providing access to sacraments is particularly outrageous.
9) It may be convenient for an eventual access to sacraments to take place in a discreet manner, especially if troublesome situations can be anticipated. At the same time, however, the community should be accompanied so that it may grow in its spirit of understanding and acceptance, without letting this situation create confusion about the teaching of the Church on the indissoluble marriage. The community is an instrument of mercy, which is “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” (297).
10) Discernment is not closed, because it “is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized” (303), according to the “law of gradualness” (295) and with confidence in the help of grace.
Above all, we are pastors. This is why we would like to welcome the following words of the Pope: “I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen [to the faithful] with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church” (312).
With love in Christ,
The Bishops of the Region
5 September, 2016
Vatican City, 5 September, 2016
To the Bishops of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region, Mons. Sergio Alfredo Fenoy, Delegate of the Region
I received the document of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region entitled “Basic criteria for the implementation of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia”. Thank you very much for sending it, and let me congratulate you on the work that you have undertaken: a true example of accompaniment of priests…and we all know how necessary it is for a bishop to stay close to his priests and for priests to stay close to their bishop. The bishop’s “neighboring” neighbor is the priest, and the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself begins, for us bishops, precisely with our priests.
The document is very good and thoroughly specifies the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia. There are no further interpretations. And I am confident that it will do much good.
May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity. And it is precisely pastoral charity that drives us to go out to meet the strayed, and, once they are found, to initiate a path of acceptance, discernment and reinstatement in the ecclesial community. We know this is tiring, it is “hand-to-hand” pastoral care which cannot be fully addressed with programmatic, organizational or legal measures, even if these are also necessary. It simply entails accepting, accompanying, discerning, reinstating.
Out of these four pastoral attitudes the least refined and practised is discernment; and I deem it urgent to include training in personal and community discernment in our Seminaries and Presbyteries. Finally, I would like to recall that Amoris laetitia resulted from the work and prayers of the whole Church, with the mediation of two Synods and the Pope. For this reason, I recommend a full catechesis of the Exhortation, which will, most certainly, contribute towards the growth, consolidation and holiness of the family. Once again, thank you for your work and let me encourage you to carry on studying and teaching Amoris laetitia in the different communities of the dioceses. Please, do not forget to pray and to remind others to pray for me.
May Jesus bless you and may the Holy Virgin take care of you.
During his Apostolic Trip in Poland on the occasion of the 31st World Youth Day, July 30, 2016—first vespers of St Ignatius of Loyola—at 5 p,m., Pope Francis met with a group of 28 Polish Jesuits belonging to two Provinces of the Society of Jesus of the countryand two lay collaborators, accompanied by the two Father Provincials, Fr Tomasz Ortman and Fr. Jakub Kolacz. Attended also the meeting other three Jesuits: fr. Andrzej Majewski, Vatican Radio’s director of programs, fr. Federico Lombardi, at that time director of the Press Office of the Holy See, and fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica. The encounter occurred at the Archbishopric of Krakow in a climate of great simplicity, spontaneity and cordiality, and though it was not devoid of meaningful content to the Order, it also held meaning for the Church more in general. Francis greeted everyone present, one by one, and he focused in particular on those he had known in the past. When he was seated and began the dialogue, listening to the questions posed and answering in Italian, Fr. Kolacz translated his words into Polish, even though the majority of those present understood Italian well. Then the Pontiff received some gifts. Before concluding the encounter, lasting a total of 40 minutes, the Pope wanted to add a recommendation easily understandable in connection with his recent Magisterium. With the Holy Father’s approval, we report here the dialogue, in its immediacy, just as it happened, even preserving some personal memories. It is intended as a witnessing that—as you will read—even gathers some impressions of the Pontiff’s experience with the young people of WYD and also provides meaningful pastoral lines.
Antonio Spadaro S.J.
Your message gets to the heart of the young people. How do you speak to them so effectively? Could you give us some advice for working with youth?
When I speak, I must look people in the eyes. It isn’t possible to look in the eyes of all of them, but I look into the eyes of this one, of this one, of this one….and everyone feels I look at them. It is something that comes to me spontaneously. This is how I do it with the young people. But, then the young people, when you speak with them, ask questions…..Today at lunch they asked some questions….They even asked me how I go to confession! They have no discretion. They ask direct questions. And you always need to answer a young person with the truth. A young man asked me: «How do you confess?». And I began to talk about myself. He said to me: «In my country there were scandals tied to priests and we do not have to courage to go to confession with these priests who have lived these scandals. I cannot do it.». You see: they tell you the truth, at times they reprimand you…Young people speak directly. They want the truth or at least a clear «I don’t know how to answer you». You never find subterfuges with young people. So with prayer. They asked me: «How do you pray?». If you answer with a theory they remain disappointed. Young people are generous. But the work with them also requires patience, a lot of patience. One of them asked me today: «What should I say to a friend who does not believe in God so that they can become a believer?». Here, you see that at times young people need «recipes». Then you must be ready to correct this attitude that requires recipes and ready answers. I answered: «See that the last thing that you must do is to say something. Begin to do something. Then he or she will ask you explanations on how you live and why». Here, you must be direct, direct with the truth.
What is the role of the Jesuit universities?
A university as a straight line from the Jesuits must point to a global formation, not only intellectual, a formation of the whole human person. In fact if the university becomes simply an academy of ideas or a «factory» of professionals or a mentality centered on business prevails in its structure then it is truly off the path. We have the Exercises in hand. Here’s the challenge: take the university on the path of the Exercises. This means risking on the truth, and not on the «closed truth» that no one discusses. The truth of the encounter with people is open and requires that we let ourselves make enquiries truly from reality. And the Jesuit university must be involved with the real life of the Church and the Nation: also this is reality, in fact. A particular attention must be always be given to the marginalized, to the defense of those have more need of being protected. And this—it is clear—is not being a Communist: it is simply being truly involved with reality. In this case, in particular a Jesuit university must be fully involved with reality expressing the social thought of the Church. The free-market thought that removes man and woman from the center and puts money at the center is not ours. The doctrine of the Church is clear and it must move forward in this sense.
Why did you become a Jesuit?
When I entered the seminary, I already had a religious vocation. But at that time my confessor was anti-Jesuit. I also liked the Dominicans and their intellectual life. Then I got sick and had to undergo lung surgery. Later another priest helped me spiritually. I remember when I then told the first priest that I had entered the Jesuits, he truly did not take it well. But here the irony of the Lord moved. In fact, at that time they were receiving minor orders. The tonsure is done in the first year of theology. The rector told me to go to Buenos Aires to the auxiliary bishop, Mons. Oscar Villena, to look for him to do the tonsure ceremony. I went to the House of Clergy, but they told me that Mons. Villena was sick. There was in his place another monsignor who was precisely that first priest who had then became a Bishop! And I received the tonsure precisely from him! And we have made peace after many years…. But, yes, I can say, my choice of the Society matured by itself…
There are some recently ordained priests in this group. Do you have advice for their future?
You know: the future is from God. The most that we can do is the feasible. And the feasible are all of the bad spirit! An advice: the priesthood is truly a great grace: your priesthood as a Jesuit is soaked in the spirituality that you have lived up to now: the spirituality of the Suscipe of St Ignatius.
[At this time the encounter seems to be ending with the delivery to the Pontiff of gifts from some Jesuits who followed some young people connected to Ignatian spirituality who came from all over the world to WYD. Francis then wants to add a recommendation and everyone sits down again.]
I want to add something now. I ask you to work with seminarians. Above all, give them what you have received from the Exercises: the wisdom of discernment. The Church today needs to grow in the ability of spiritual discernment.Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set aside concrete situations: «you must do this, you must not do this.». And then the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults. Because many are asking: «can you do this or can you not?». That’s all. And many people leave the confessional disappointed. Not because the priest is bad, but because the priest doesn’t have the ability to discern situations, to accompany them in authentic discernment. They don’t have the needed formation. Today the Church needs to grow in discernment, in the ability to discern. And priests above all really need it for their ministry. This is why we need to teach it to seminarians and priests in formation: they are the ones usually entrusted with the confidences of the conscience of the faithful. Spiritual direction is not solely a priestly charism, but also lay, it is true. But, I repeat, you must teach this above all to priests, helping them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment, which respects the law but knows how to go beyond. This is an important task for the Society. A thought of Fr. Hugo Rahner has often struck me. He thought clearly and wrote clearly! Hugo said that the Jesuit must be a man with the nose for the supernatural, that is he must be a man gifted with a sense of the divine and of the diabolical relative to the events of human life and history. The Jesuit must therefore be capable of discerning both in the field of God and in the field of the devil. This is why in the Exercises St Ignatius asks to be introduced both to the intentions of the Lord of life and to those of the enemy of human nature and to his lies. What he has written is bold, it is truly bold, but discernment is precisely this! We need to form future priests not to general and abstract ideas, which are clear and distinct, but to this keen discernment of spirits so that they can help people in their concrete life.We need to truly understand this: in life not all is black on white or white on black. No! The shades of grey prevail in life. We must them teach to discern in this grey area.
[The encounter ends here above all by the necessity to continue on the day’s program brought to the attention of the Holy Father by his collaborators. Before taking his leave, however, Francis wanted once more to greet the Jesuits one by one concluding with a final blessing.]
 The Suscipe is a prayer that St Ignatius inserts in his Spiritual Exercises within the so-calledContemplatio ad amorem (n. 234): «Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To You, O Lord, I return it. All is Yours, dispose of it wholly according to Your will. Give me Your love and Your grace, for this is enough for me». Recall that even Benedict XVI recommended the IgnatianSuscipe responding to a seminarian during a visit to Major Roman Seminary, February 17, 2007.
 Here the Pontiff refers to a test of Hugo Rahner that arose following a study session on Ignatian spirituality. The most recent Italian edition is the following: Come sono nati gli Esercizi. Il cammino spirituale di sant’Ignazio di Loyola, Rome, Adp, 2004. Francis here was referring to the reflections that Hugo Rahner wrote in chapter eight of the volume. We note that chapter three of the same study was cited by Blessed Paul VI December 3, 1974, speaking to the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.
Pope Francis received the prestigious Charlemagne Prize May 6, 2016. In his discourse he cited the great Jesuit theologian Erich Przywara, teacher of Hans Urs von Balthasar and author of the essay Idee Europa [The Idea of Europe]  Citing L’idea di Europa, that he knows well, Francis reveals his conviction, which was that of the Jesuit theologian: we are at the end of the Constantinian epoch and the experiment of Charlemagne. It is interesting, therefore, that the Pope quotes Przywara precisely in this Carolinian context.
«Christendom», that is that process started with Constantine in which he implements an organic bond between culture, politics, institutions and the Church, is concluding. Przywara — together with the Austrian historian Friedrich Heer  — is convinced that Europe was born and raised in relationship and in contraposition with the Sacrum imperium, that has its own roots in the attempt by Charlemagne to organize the West as a totalitarian state.
This process is evaluated by Heer as «the possibility for the Church to resume the evangelical paths started by Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Lisieux, breaking down the barriers that separated her from the poor to whom Christianity—in the theological political conjuncture of the various forms of Christianity—always appeared as an ideological policy —and the guarantee — of the dominant groups».  For Heer the end of Christendom does not mean the decline of the West, but rather brings in itself a decisive theological resource in as much as the mission of Charlemagne is at the end. Christ himself resumes the work of conversion. The wall falls that almost up to the present day has impeded the Gospel from reaching the deeper layers of the conscience, from penetrating to the center of the soul. 
He thus radically refuses the idea of the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth, that was at the base of the Holy Roman Empire and all similar political and institutional forms, up to the dimension of the political «party». If so understood, in fact, the «chosen people» would enter into an intricate interweaving of religious, institutional and political dimensions that cause them to lose awareness of its universal diakonia and would contraposition them to those who are alienated, to the those who do not belong, that is the «enemy».
The Pope has confirmed his vision citing Przywara a few days after having received the prize, May 9, in an interview with the French daily La Croix. Questioned on why he speaks of the «European identity», the pontiff answers: «We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many. In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones. John Paul II, however, spoke about it in a tranquil manner. Yes, Europe has Christian roots and it is Christianity’s responsibility to water those roots. But this must be done in a spirit of service as in the washing of the feet. Christianity’s duty to Europe is one of service. As Erich Przywara, the great master of Romano Guardini and Hans Urs von Balthasar, teaches us, Christianity’s contribution to a culture is that of Christ in the washing of the feet. In other words, service and the gift of life. It must not become a colonial enterprise».
With Przywara, Bergolio recognizes — precisely as is affirmed in the Letter to the Hebrews (13:13) — that Christians must «go outside of the camp to bring the outrage of Christ». And the Church must be in exit and never be a closed and excluding entity. She is to follow Christ outside of the wall of the holy city, where he died as an accursed man to be able to gather together the whole of humanity, even those who believed him accursed and abandoned by God (cfr Gal 3:13).
Here arises the idea of the Church as «a field hospital», also evoked in the discourse of the President of the European Council, Tusk. And in fact Francis continues in his discourse affirming that «To the rebirth of a Europe weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities, the Church can and must play her part». How? Proclaiming the gospel, that «more than ever finds expression in going forth to bind the wounds of humanity with the powerful yet simple presence of Jesus, and his mercy that consoles and encourages».
Here is, therefore, what the task of the Church should be, definitely post-Carolinian: to be in exit, going out and encountering the wounded. This is what Francis is doing, seeking thus to contribute to enlarging the soul of Europe.
 Cfr J. L. Narvaja, «La crisi di ogni politica cristiana. Erich Przywara e l’“idea di Europa”», in La Civiltà Cattolica 2016 I 437-448. Cfr also A. Spadaro, «La diplomazia di Francesco. La misericordia come processo politico», in La Civiltà Cattolica 2016 I 209-226, 218-220.
 E. Przywara, L’ idea d’Europa. La «crisi» di ogni politica «cristiana», Trapani, Il Pozzo di Giacobbe, 2013, 119. Cfr F. Heer, Aufgang Europas. Eine Studie zu den Zusammenhängen zwischen politischer Religiosität, Frömmigkeitsstil und dem Werden Europas im 12. Jahrhundert, Wien, Europa Verlag, 1949.
 F. Mandreoli – J. L. Narvaja, «Introduzione», in E. Przywara, L’ idea d’Europa. La «crisi» di ogni politica «cristiana», Trapani, Il Pozzo di Giacobbe, 2013, 55.
 Cfr ivi, 55; G. Zamagni, «“Tra Costantino e Hitler”. L’Europa di Friedrich Heer», in Id., Fine dell’era costantiniana. Retrospettiva genealogica di un concetto critico, Bologna, il Mulino, 2012, 55-57.
 G. Goubert – S. Maillard, «Le devoir du christianisme pour l’Europe, c’est le service», in La Croix, 17 maggio 2016.
 E. Przywara, L’ idea d’Europa…, cit., 122 s.
— A pontificate of discernment and «incomplete thought» — A pontificate of tension between spirit and institution — A pontificate of frontier and challenges — A pontificate for a Church, «field hospital» — A pontificate of geopolitical impact
1. A pontificate of discernment and «incomplete thought»
For Pope Francis the world is always in movement: the ordinary perspective, with its metrics of judgment to classify what is important and what is not, doesn’t work.
Being men and women of discernment meansfor the Popebeing men and women of «incomplete thought», of «open thought».
That means that he does not seem to have a «project», that is a theoretical and abstract plan to apply to history.
He doesn’t have a road map written a priori, that refers to ideas or concepts. He always refers to«times, places, people», as St. Ignatius of Loyola requires, and therefore not ideological abstractions.That interior vision does not impose itself on history, seeking to organize it according to its own coordinates, but it dialogs with reality, it sets itself into the history of men and women, it unfolds in time.
This «open» vision gives substance to that which he intends by «reform»,that has fire in the heart and not in the structures.
At timesthe Pope opens discourses without however closing them right away or drawing hasty conclusions, thus leaving space to dialogue and debate, even among those who have high ecclesial responsibilities (cfr Evangelii gaudium [EG], n. 32, on the conversion of the papacy,n. 51 on the discipline of the sacraments,n. 104 on the role of women).
In this journey Pope Francis does not believe that we must expect from his magisterium «a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the church and the world» (EG 16).In fact «neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems» (EG 184).Then «in her dialogue with the State and with society, the Church does not have solutions for every particular issue» (EG 241).
2. A pontificate of tension between spirit and institution
Pope Francis writes in Evangelii gaudium: «The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the Word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking» (EG 22).
A dialectical tension always exists in the discourse that Pope Francis makes between spirit and institution:the one never negates the other, but the first must animate the second in an effective manner.
Then, further along, he affirms that the Church is «a people of pilgrims and evangelizers, transcending any institutional expression, however necessary» (EG 111).
It is interesting to note this fruitful tension further: that between the Church as «pilgrim people» and the Church as «institution», that reflects the two definitions of Church highly preferred by Pope Francis: «faithful people of God in journey» (Lumen gentium) and «holy mother hierarchical Church» (Ignatius of Loyola).
This tension animates Francis’ reflection with regard to that which he has called the «conversion of the papacy» (EG32).
3. A pontificate of frontier and challenges
Encountering the Jesuits of La Civiltà Cattolica Pope Francis recommended inhabiting the frontiers: «you must go towards the frontiers and not carry the frontiers home to paint them a bit or to domesticate them». Our task, therefore, is that of «accompanying […] the culture and social processes, and those who are living difficult transitions, even taking charge of conflicts».
We see reality better from the periphery than from the center.Here’s the reason for his circumnavigation to the borders of the world and of human life.He is seeking for the «soul».And the soul is not only the «center», but the pulsing and living «heart».
Francis is like a doctor who seeks to understand if the heart functions, observing if and how the blood flows everywhere, and also investigating the peripheral circulation.
His most radical question is:how do we proclaim the Gospel to everyone, whatever ishis or her existential condition? This is what really matters.
4. A pontificate for a Church, «field hospital»
At the heart of my discussion with Pope Francis an image emerged: that of the Church as a ‘field hospital after a battle’. It is a very potent image, which also contains within it the dramatic perception of a world living in warlike conditions with people who are dying and people who are injuried.
The weakness of the human condition is the starting point for the mission that mustabove all consider to whom the message of salvation should be addressed. If the Church hasbefore ita wounded man who needs salvation, it cannot and must not proceed to measure his cholesterol or glycaemia, It has to save his life, it has to bring him or her the message of salvation.
This is why in my interview the Pope states explicitly: ‘We cannot dwell only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.’
I have always found myself thinking about an event in Pope Francis’s life which I have always connected with the attitude of ‘cure’, not least in the medical sense, which he frequently expresses: the fact that before entering the seminary Bergoglio fell seriously ill at the age of 21. He suffered a near-fatal lung infection. In a moment of high fever he embraced his mother, saying desperately: ‘Tell me what’s happening to me!’. I think that in some way this marked the great and profound human and spiritual sensitivity of Pope Francis.
One question that the Pope asked vibrantly during our conversation was: ‘How are we treating the people of God?’ It’s a central question, one that he poses every day, even before worrying about structures.
And the word ‘treat’ should perhaps be read in the sense of ‘cure’ in the context of a ‘field hospital’.
This is being…. “merciful”.Mercy means Healing.
5. A pontificate that has a geopolitical impact
Mercy can even have cultural and political value.It is no coincidence that there are many people who judge Francis also as a prophetic spirit who affects politics.
What does mercy mean as a political category?
In an extreme synthesis, we can say: don’t ever consider anything or anyone as definitively «lost» in relationships among nations, peoples and states.This is the core of its political meaning. On this Francis wrote: «It is desireable that even the language of politics and diplomacy let’s us be inspired by mercy, that never gives up anything as lost».
Precisely this fluidity is the reason that makes us understand why Pope Francis never espouses rigid intérpretive mechanisms to address international situations and crises.
The Holy See has established or wants to establish direct and fluid relationships with the super powers, without wanting to enter into pre-established networks of alliance and influence.
Essentially, the position wanted by the Pope consists in not giving wrongs and reasons, because at the root, however, there is a struggle for power of supremacy.
There is therefore no imagining a deployment for moral reasons. But the necessity to see the picture by a different optic is required. And this is why is so important his agility in building bridges between lands and distant positions (China, Russia, Iran,…)
All this puts into motion unpredictable logic, precisely of a polyhedric and multipolar vision.
… And now again we got back here at the very beginning: Francis is a pope who is living his ministry as a ministry of discernment, of «incomplete thought»…
— What is the vision that the non European Pope has of Europe?
Pope Francis received the prestigious Charlemagne Prize May 6, 2016 . Here is the reason for the prize: «in tribute to His extraordinary commitment to favor peace, understanding, and mercy in a European Society of values».
What is the vision that the non European Pope has of Europe? The Bergolio’s gaze is a European gaze, because his roots are in the Piedmont and his formation is radically European as well. He himself, in his discourse, recognizes himself as a son «who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith». And he is however Argentine and his ecclesial experience is Latin American.
The itinerary of his trips on the European continent began from Lampedusa–«Europe’s gate», and therefore goal of a trip more European than Italian—and from Albania, a land of Europe that is not yet part of the European Union and of an Islamic majority. From these «peripheries» the Pope is as if rebounded briefly to the «center», that is at Strasburg, to visit the European institutions, and then continues ever to the borders: Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lesbos, other tragic «European gates». In October he will be at Lund, in Sweden. Mercy for Francis is delineated politically in freedom of movement. He approaches Europe from her distant «periphery».
To understand this statement beyond every easy slogan, we read what Francis declared in an interview released by La Cárcova News, a popular magazine produced in an Argentine villa miseria: «When I speak of periphery, I speak of borders. Normally we move in space that in one way or another we control. This is the center. In the measure in which we go out from the center and distance ourselves from it, we discover more things and, when we look at the center of these new things that we have discovered, new places, from these peripheries, we see that reality is different. One thing is to observe reality from the center and another to see it from the last place where you arrived. An example: Europe seen from Madrid in the 16th century was one thing, however when Magellan arrives at the end of the American continent, he sees Europe from a new point reached and understands another thing».
Bergolio’s gaze is, therefore, that of Magellan, and he wants to continue to be him. Francis wants to know Europe starting from Rome and circumnavigating the continent starting from the south and proceeding to the east and then—he will do it in October—pushing into the deep north, in Sweden. There was not, at the moment, any short trip to the west, towards the West.
In the interview quoted he continues: «You see reality better from the periphery than from the center». Here’s the reason for his external journey, for his circumnavigation to the borders. This is what Francis seeks between Lampedusa, Tirana, Lesbos and Lund: the European «soul». And the soul is not only the «center», but the pulsing and living «heart». Francis is like a doctor who seeks to understand if the heart functions, observing if and how the blood flows everywhere, and also investigating the peripheral circulation.
Another term to express this vision is «multipolarity». Francis said it clearly in his discourse to the Council of Europe November 25th, 2014: Europe cannot be understood in terms of a few polar «centers», because « tensions – whether constructive or divisive – are situated between multiple cultural, religious and political poles». Multipolarity involves «striving to create a constructive harmony, one free of those pretensions to power». Then we must think of Europe in a multifaceted manner in its relationships and tensions. That of Francis is a non deterministic European geopolitics, aware of the fact that the redistribution of power among the principal actors does not account for the profound dynamics of the Continent.
— Europe: not a space to defend, but a process to implement
«Creativity, ingenuity and the capacity to rise above and to go beyond her own limits belong to the European soul», Francis began. And here in his discourse immediately surfaces the reference to eccentricity, to the overcoming of limits and boundaries. Europe is herself because she knows to go beyond herself. Her «house» is built going beyond the ashes of «tragic conflicts, culminating in the most horrific war ever known»
This vision therefore is profoundly bound to becoming, to dialectical overcoming of walls and obstacles. Europe is not a «thing», but a «process» still in action with «a more complex and highly mobile world». Her Fathers have «laid the foundations» an «enlightened project» that is always a work in progress. We must therefore verify not if the house holds, but if its realization follows that wise project. Here is the opinion of the Pope: «Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading; we, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there»
Why has this happened? Because — the Pope affirmed, consistent with his approach to reality — Europe is «more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change. There is an impression that Europe is tending to become increasingly “entrenched”, rather than open to initiating new social processes capable of engaging all individuals and groups in the search for new and productive solutions to current problems. Europe, rather than protecting spaces, is called to be a mother who generates processes».
If Europe considers herself as a «space», then sooner or later will be—and it has already come—the moment of fear, of the fear that the space is invaded. Space is first of all defended. If instead Europe is to consider herself as an ongoing process, then she understands how it puts energies into movement, accepting the challenges of history. Then even difficulties and contradictions «can become powerful forces of unity».
 Cfr A. Spadaro, «La diplomazia di Francesco. La misericordia come processo politico», in Civ. Catt. 2016 I 209-226.
 That text of the audio interview is found transcribed and translated at the site http://www.terredamerica.com (10 marzo 2015). The emphasis is ours.
 Pope Francis, Discorso to the European Parliament, Strasburgo, 25 novembre 2014.