Valentina di Giorgio
(ZENIT News / Rome, 16.02.2023).- During his recent visit to the Congo and South Sudan, Pope Francis held a meeting with Jesuits of the Congo. One of them asked him this question: “As a professed Jesuit you vowed not to seek roles of authority in the Church. What prompted you to accept the Episcopacy, then the Cardinalate and then the Papacy?”
Not known to date is that the Pope had made such a vow, or at least it hadn’t been highlighted. To the Congolese Jesuit’s question the Holy Father answered:
“When I made that vow, I meant it. When they proposed to me to be Auxiliary Bishop of San Miguel, I did not accept. Then I was asked to be Bishop of an area of northern Argentina, in the province of Corrientes. To encourage me to accept, the Papal Nuncio told me that the ruins of past Jesuits were there. I replied that I did not want to be guardian of the ruins, and I refused. I refused these two requests because of the vow I made. The third time the Nuncio came, but already with the authorization signed by the Superior General, Father Kolvenbach, who had agreed to my accepting. It was as an Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires. Therefore, I accepted in a spirit of obedience. Then I was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of my city and, in 2001, Cardinal. In the last Conclave, I came with a small briefcase to return immediately to [my] diocese, but I had to stay. I believe in the Jesuit distinctiveness about this vow, and I did my best not to accept the Episcopate.
Later on another Jesuit intervened and said that the Pope wanted Jesuit Bishops and so he was asked what he expects from those Jesuit Bishops. The Pontiff answered that the “choice as Bishop depends solely on the need of the Church. I believe in our vow that tends to prevent Jesuits from being Bishops, but, if it serves the good of the Church, then the latter good prevails. I’ll tell you the truth: when the General or Provincial knows that a Jesuit is being considered for Bishop, they intervene and know how to “defend” the Society well. If, however, it is then decided that it is necessary, it is done. At other times — and I am thinking of a specific case — if the first of the terna is a Jesuit, but then there is a second one who can still fit, the second of the three is chosen. I believe in the vow, but the needs of the Church prevail.”
Finally, and continuing in the line of answers in a Jesuit context, a Jesuit religious in South Sudan — in another place and moment — asked him how the process of the former General of the Jesuits Father Pedro Arrupe’s Beatification was going, the Pope answered: “His Cause is moving forward, because one of the stages is already completed. I talked about this with Father General. The biggest problem concerns Father Arrupe’s writings. He wrote so much and you have to read all of it, and that slows down the process. And I come back to prayer. Arrupe was a man of prayer, a man who wrestled with God every day, and that’s where his strong call for the promotion of justice comes from. We see it in his ‘testament,’ the speech he gave in Thailand before his stroke, when he reiterated the importance of mission with refugees.”