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“No to Ideology”: Pope Meets Jesuits of Central America

Article in “La Civilta Cattolica”

Pope Francis reminds that what is important is “not to let oneself be submerged by an ideology,” quoting the examples of Father Rutilio Grande, the Salvadorian Jesuit murdered in 1977, and of Monsignor Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, whose names were linked for a long time with social struggles led by Marxists.

It was by reaffirming their martyrdom that Pope Francis began his conversation, on January 26, 2019, with some 30 Jesuits of the whole of Central America, 18 of whom were novices, in a Hall of Panama’s Apostolic Nunciature, reported “Vatican News” in Italian on February 14. In its latest issue, the Jesuit “Civilta Cattolica” periodical reports the whole conversation that took place on the occasion of Panama’s WYD. The article includes some 12 questions and answers.

Archbishop Romero and Father Rutilio Grande are two men who lived “the dimension of prophecy,” and of “witness,” explained the Pontiff. “I love Rutilio very much,” confided the Holy Father, adding that he has in his room a frame with “a piece of bloodied cloth of Romero and notes of a catechesis of Rutilio.”

“Today,” joked the Pope, “we, the old men, laugh as much as we are disquieted about the Theology of Liberation,” but it was a period of confusion, where the dominant idea “was that to canonize Monsignor Romero was impossible because the man wasn’t even Christian, he was a Marxist!”

To Serve Is “The Purest Charism of the Society”

A great part of the Pope’s conversation with his confreres touched on aspects of the Society’s life. Addressing future Jesuits, the Pontiff encouraged them to develop “clarity of conscience,” because “the devious have no place among Saint Ignatius’ sons. And this is particularly true for the formators, men who must be able to “discern” and “not be afraid.” Otherwise, “the bond of fraternity is broken.”

Pope Francis dedicated intense words to the vocation of “Brothers,” namely of non-priests of the Society of Jesus, many of whom were “oaks,” ready to serve but also to counsel Superiors with lucidity and simplicity. “A Brother is one who has the Society’s purest charism: to serve, serve, serve,” he said.

And the Holy Father recommended Jesuit priests to “put their life at stake,” “to be available for all that” God wills. Although that does not change the attitude to keep vis-a-vis politics, specified the Pope. “Put yourselves above parties, but not as one who washes his hands but, rather, as one who accompanies the parties,” in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Responding to a question on the relationship between inculturation and identity, the Pontiff recounted an anecdote about a young graduate who returned after years of study to the reality of his home and his peasant parents. A young confused man, who had to ask his father the names of the agricultural tools and was hit on the face with a badly handled rake. The Pope reminded that it’s necessary to inculturate without ever being a “snob.” This concerns Religious especially, when they think that the consecration has made them pass to a “more cultivated” category. Consequently, added the Pope jokingly, “those that forget their culture are in real need of a rake in the face.”

Rediscover the Roots

A Jesuit asked the Holy Father to reflect on the “culture of encounter,” one of the main points of the message to young people during the WYD. The Pope mentioned the last book of Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017), which, in the Italian version, is entitled “Nati Liquidi” [“Born Liquid”], a look on the post-eighties generations.

Pope Francis prefers the German title “Without Roots” (Die Entwurzelten), because “the present crisis of encounter” is a “crisis of roots,” namely, of young people plunged in a “gaseous” culture,” “without a trunk,” who have no help, not even on the part of their parents, “because it’s a question of torn persons, often in concurrence with their children.”

The liquid generation are the children of a “virtual world that helps to create contacts, but not ‘encounters,’” which creates “artificial” satisfaction,” detached from the “concrete dimension.”

For the Pope, “it’s the grandparents who give the roots” to young people, a concept he has repeated many times. It’s not a “romantic idea,” assured Francis. Its efficacy has been tested in numerous circumstances. When young people have contact with elderly people they are soon captivated by their stories, by “the dreams of the elderly that awake in them.”

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