VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged members of the Society of Jesus to be faithful to the legacy of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The Pope made that request Saturday when meeting with 8,000 Jesuits and friends who were participating in a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter.
In response to the words addressed to him by the superior general of the Jesuits, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Holy Father stressed the “ecclesial character” that the saintly founder imprinted on this religious family with the special vow of obedience to the Pope.
After Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, celebrated Mass for those present, the Pontiff went to St. Peter’s Basilica to deliver his address, in which he commented on the context in which the pilgrimage was taking place.
The Jesuits and friends who came to the Vatican celebrated the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier and of Blessed Peter Faber, which occurred, respectively, on April 7 and 13 of 1506, as well as the 450th anniversary of the death of St. Ignatius of Loyola, on July 31, 1556.
Man of God
“St. Ignatius of Loyola,” said the Pope, “was first of all a man of God, who put God in the first place in his life, his greater glory and his greater service; he was a man of profound prayer, who had his center and summit in the daily Eucharistic celebration.”
In this way, “he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy which must not be lost or forgotten,” the Holy Father added.
Among the aspects of that legacy, Benedict XVI highlighted that this “man of God … was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians.”
“And from the desire to serve the Church in the most useful and effective way was born the vow of special obedience to the Pope, described by St. Ignatius as ‘our first and foremost foundation,'” indicated the Pope, citing the constitutions of the Society of Jesus.
“May this very specific ecclesial character of the Society of Jesus continue to be present in your persons and your apostolic activity, dear Jesuits, so that you can meet faithfully the urgent present needs of the Church,” the Bishop of Rome exhorted.
And among the most urgent needs that the Jesuits must address, the Pope pointed out “cultural commitment in the fields of theology and philosophy, traditional realms of apostolic presence of the Society of Jesus.”
At the same time, he stressed the “dialogue with modern culture, which although on one hand shows wonderful progress in the scientific field, is strongly marked by the positivist and materialist scientific spirit.”
In this endeavor to promote “in cordial collaboration with the other ecclesial realities a culture inspired in the values of the Gospel,” the Holy Father noted the need for “an intense spiritual and cultural preparation.”
“Precisely for this reason, St. Ignatius wanted young Jesuits to be formed for long years in the spiritual life and in studies,” Benedict XVI said.
“It is good that this tradition be maintained and reinforced, given also the growing complexity and extent of modern culture,” he explained.
Evoking St. Ignatius’ “great concern” for “Christian education and the cultural formation of youth,” Benedict XVI encouraged his spiritual sons to continue “with this important apostolate, without altering the spirit of your founder.”
In his address, the Pope also remembered St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), presenting his missionary example of great importance at present in Asia, as well as Peter Faber (1506-1546), who played a prominent role in talks with the exponents of the Reformation in Germany.
The Society of Jesus has some 20,000 members in 112 countries. It is planning a general congregation in 2008, in which a new superior general might be elected. Father Kolvenbach turns 80 that year.