During the 88th General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, Nov 25. 2016, Pope Francis had a dialogue with 140 Superiors General of male religious orders. The full dialogue between Pope Francis and the Religious superiors will appear in La Civiltà Cattolica on Saturday, but excerpts of the conversation were published on Thursday, Feb 10., in Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
While Zenit will explore the conversation in greater details in the days to come, some of the topics touched on during the Pope’s talk with the religious superiors included why young people are at the forefront of the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the Roman Curia, and the falling number of vocations in religious orders. Moreover, he discusses his election and being at peace as Pope, how he personally entrusts concerns to St. Joseph, the prophetic role of religious life, as well as the sexual abuses in the Church.
This morning, Pope Francis met with the Jesuits who write for the ‘Civiltà Cattolicà’ magazine, currently celebrating its 4000th edition. Founded in 1850 and originally available only in Italian, the publication is now adding editions in English, French, Spanish and Korean. Below is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s words to the Jesuit writers this morning in the Vatican:
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The Holy Father’s Address
Dear writers of La Civilta Cattolica College, dear lay collaborators,
I am happy to meet with you together with other Jesuits of the Community, the Sisters and all those that collaborate with you in the life of the Review and in the administration of the house in which you dwell. I also greet the editors that from this moment will publish the review in Spanish, English, French and Korean. I also feel present here the whole vast family of your readers. I meet you all together gladly on the occasion of the publication of the 4000th issue. It is truly a unique accomplishment: the review has completed a journey in time of 167 years and continues its navigation in an open sea with courage.
See: you remain in an open sea! A Catholic must not be afraid of an open sea; he must not seek the shelter of safe ports. Above all, as Jesuits, you must avoid clutching to certainties and securities. The Lord calls us to go out on mission, to go off and not to retire to guard certainties. Going off one meets storms and there can be a headwind. And yet, the holy journey is always made in the company of Jesus who says to His own: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” (Matthew 14:27)
Your navigation is not solitary. My Predecessors, from Blessed Pius IX to Benedict XVI, meeting with you in audience, recognized many times your navigation in Peter’s bark. This bond with the Pontiff has always been an essential feature of your Review. You are in Peter’s bark. At times in history – today as yesterday – it can be tossed by the waves and we must not marvel at this. But even the mariners themselves, called to row in Peter’s bark, can row in the opposite direction. It has always happened. You of La Civilta Cattolica must be “expert and courageous rowers” (Pius VII, Bull Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum): row therefore! Row, be strong also with a headwind! We row at the service of the Church. We row together!” (Homily during Vespers with Te Deum, September 27, 2014). This is the bond between you and me. And I express my “earnest desire that this bond not only be maintained but that it be reinforced” (John Paul II, Address to the Writers of “La Civilta Cattolica,” January 19, 1990). We always go forward in our navigation, driven by the breath of the Holy Spirit who guides us. 4000 issues is not just a collection of paper! There is a life inside, made of many reflections, much passion, of struggles endured and contradictions met, but above all, of so much work. I learned that your predecessors loved to call themselves simply “laborers.” Not “intellectuals,” but “laborers.” I like this description very much, which is humble, modest and very effective. Saint Ignatius wants us to be laborers in the mystical vineyard. I work in one way, you work in another. But we are together, next to one another. In my work I see you, I follow you, I accompany you with affection. Your Review is often on my desk. And I know that in your work you never lose sight of me. You have accompanied faithfully all the fundamental passages of my Pontificate beginning with the long interview I granted your Director in August 2013: the publication of the Encyclicals and of the Apostolic Exhortations, giving them a faithful interpretation; the Synods, the Apostolic Journeys, the Jubilee of Mercy. I thank you for this and I ask you to continue on this path of working with me and of praying for me.
How many things have happened in the Review’s 167 years of life, recounted in your 4000 issues. In every thousandth issue you have met the Pope: Leo XIII, Pius XI, Paul VI celebrated the preceding ones. Now you are with me. And with you is the Father General of the Society of Jesus, because Blessed Pius IX wished the College to “depend completely and in everything” on him (Breve ap. Gravissimum supremi). I confirm this entrustment of La Civilta Cattolica to the Father General precisely because of the specific task that your Review carries out at the direct service of the Apostolic See.
And, more in general, I confirm the original Statutes of your Review, which Pius IX wrote in 1866 instituting La Civilta Cattolica “in a perpetual way.” Reading it today we note a language that is no longer ours. However, the profound and specific sense of your Review is well described and must remain unchanged, namely, that of a Review that is expression of a community of writers, all Jesuits, who share not only an intellectual experience but also a charismatic inspiration and, at least in the fundamental nucleus of the editorial staff, the daily life of the community. The variety of arguments that you address is chosen and elaborated in a consultation among you, which requires frequent exchange (cf. Leo XIII, Letter Sapienti consilio). And it is for you to compare not only ideas but also the way of expressing them and the means adapted to do so. The center of La Civilta Cattolica is the College of Writers. Everything must turn around it and its mission.
This mission — for the first time in 167 years — beginning today widens beyond the linguistic confines of Italian. I am happy to be able to bless the editions of La Civilta Cattolica in Spanish, English, French and Korean. It is an evolution that already your predecessors, at the time of the Council, had in mind, but which was never put into operation. For a long time already the State Secretariat sends it to all the Nunciatures in the world. Now that the world is ever more connected, the surmounting of linguistic barriers will help to diffuse the message better to a wider audience. This new stage will also contribute to widen your horizon, and to receive written contributions from other Jesuits in various parts of the world. Living culture tends to open, integrate, multiply, share, dialogue, give and receive within a people and with other peoples with whom it enters in relation. La Civilta Cattolica will be a Review ever more open to the world. This is a new way of living our specific mission.
And what is this specific mission? It is that of being a Catholic Review. However, to be a Catholic Review does not mean simply that it defends Catholic ideas, as if Catholicism were a philosophy. As your founder, Father Carlo Maria Curci wrote, La Civilta Cattolica must not “appear as something of the sacristy.” A Review is truly “Catholic” only if it has Christ’s look on the world, and if it transmits and witnesses it.
In my meeting with you three years ago I presented your mission in three words: dialogue, discernment, frontier. I confirm them today. In the greeting card I sent you for the 4000th issue I used the image of a bridge. I like to think of La Civilta Cattolica as a Review that is at the same time “bridge” and “frontier.
Today I would like to add some reflections to deepen what your founders, taken up later by Paul VI, called the “constitutional design” of the Review. And I will also give you three “patrons,” namely, three figures of Jesuits to look at to go forward.
The first word is RESTLESSNESS. I pose a question: has your heart kept the restlessness of research? Only restlessness gives peace to a Jesuit’s heart. Without restlessness we are sterile. If you want to inhabit bridges and frontiers you must have a restless mind and heart. Sometimes the security of doctrine is confused with mistrust for research. It must not be so for you. Christian values and traditions are not rare pieces to be closed in the cases of a museum. Instead, may the certainty of the faith be the engine of your research. I give you as patron Saint Peter Favre (1506-1546), man of great desires, restless spirit, never satisfied, pioneer of ecumenism. For Favre, it is precisely when difficult things are proposed that the true spirit that moves an action is manifested (cf. Memorial, 301). An authentic faith always implies a profound desire to change the world. See the question that we should pose to ourselves: Do we have great visions and impetus? Are we audacious? Or are we mediocre, and content with laboratory reflections?
May your Review be aware of the wounds of this world and point out therapies. May it be writing that tends to comprehend evil but also that pours oil on open wounds, to heal. Favre walked with his feet and died young of exhaustion, devoured by his desires for the greater glory of God. You must walk with your restless intelligence so that the keyboards of your computers translate into useful reflections to build a better world, the Kingdom of God.
The second word is INCOMPLETENESS. God is the Deus semper maior, the God who always surprises us. Therefore, you must be writers and journalists of the incomplete thought, that is, open and not closed and rigid. May your faith open your thought. Let yourselves be guided by the prophetic spirit of the Gospel to have an original, vital, dynamic, not obvious vision. And this especially today in such a complex world, full of challenges in which the “culture of [seeing] [trainwrecks]” seems to triumph – fuelled by profane messianism, of relativist mediocrity, of mistrust and rigidity – and the “culture of the ‘dumpster,’” where any thing that does not function as one wishes or is even considered useless is now thrown away.
The crisis is global hence it is necessary to turn our gaze to the dominant cultural conventions and to the criteria through which people hold that something is good or bad, desirable or not. Only a truly open thought can address the crisis and understand where the world is going, how the most complex and urgent crises are addressed, the geo-politics, the challenges of the economy and the grave humanitarian crisis linked to the drama of migrations, which is the global political node of our days.
I give you then as a reference figure the Servant of God Father Matteo Ricci (1522-1610).He composed a great Chinese globe depicting the continents and island known up to then. Thus the beloved Chinese people could see depicted in a new way many distant lands that were briefly named and described. The globe also served to introduce the Chinese people better to other civilizations. See, with your articles you are also called to compose a “globe”: show the recent discoveries, give a name to places, make known the meaning of the Catholic “civilization,” but also make Catholics know that God is also at work outside the confines of the Church, in every true “civilization,” with the breath of the Holy Spirit.
The third word is IMAGINATION. This, in the Church and in the world, is the time of discernment. Discernment is always made in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of people that know the humble way of the daily perseverance, and especially of the poor. The wisdom of discernment compensates for the necessary ambiguity of life. But it is necessary to penetrate the ambiguity, we must enter it, as the Lord Jesus did, assuming our flesh. Rigid thought is not divine because Jesus assumed our flesh, which is not rigid except at the moment of death.
That is why I like poetry so much and, when it is possible, I continue to read it. Poetry is full of metaphors. To understand metaphors helps to make thought agile, intuitive, flexible, acute. One who has imagination is not stiff, he has a sense of humor, always enjoys the sweetness of mercy and interior freedom. He is able to open wide visions also in restricted spaces as Brother Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709) did in his pictorial works, opening with the imagination open spaces, domes and corridors, there, where there were only roofs and walls. I give him also to you as a reference figure.
Cultivate, therefore, in your review space for art, literature, cinema, theater and music. You have done so since the beginning, since 1850. Some days ago, I was meditating on a painting of Hans Membling, the Flemish painter. And I thought of the miracle of delicacy that is in his painting; he represents people well. Then I thought of Baudelaire’s verses on Rubens where he writes that “ life flows and is agitated ceaselessly “like air in the sky and <water> in the sea.” Yes, life is fluid and is agitated ceaselessly as the air in the sky is agitated and <water> in the sea. The thought of the Church must recover brilliance and understand ever better how man is understood today to develop and deepen one’s teaching. And this brilliance helps to understand that life is not a white and black picture. It is a colored picture. Some colors are clear and others dark, some tenuous and others lively. But in any case the shades prevail. And this is the space of discernment, the area in which the Spirit agitates the sky as the air and the sea as the water. Your task – as Blessed Paul VI requested – is to live the confrontation “the burning needs of man and the perennial message of the Gospel” (Address on the Occasion of the 22nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, December 3, 1974). And those burning needs you already bear in yourselves, and in your spiritual life, give this confrontation the most appropriate forms, also [those that are] new, which the way of communicating today requires, which changes with the passing of time.
I hope that La Civilta Cattolica, thanks also to its versions in other languages, will be able to reach many readers. May the Society of Jesus support this very old and precious work, rather unique for the service to the Apostolic See. May it be generous in gifting it with capable Jesuits and spread it where it is most opportune. I am thinking especially of centers of educational formation and of schools, in particular, for the formation of docents and parents, but also in centers of spiritual formation. I recommend its particular diffusion in seminaries and centers of formation. May Bishops support it; its bond with the Apostolic See makes it, in fact, a unique review of its kind.
I conclude our meeting thanking you for the witness you give. I entrust all of you present here to the intercession of Our Lady of the Way and of Saint Joseph, imparting to you my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]