It was Jesuit Superior General, Fr Pedro Arrupe, who created what was then called the Jesuit Secretariat for Socio-Economic Development, in 1969.
In his address on Thursday to what is now the Jesuit Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, Pope Francis said: “Father Pedro always believed that the service of faith and the promotion of justice cannot be separated, because they are radically united”. The event was reported by Vatican News.
From the time of Saint Ignatius, the Society of Jesus was called “to serve the poor”, said the Pope. In the poor we find “a privileged place of encounter with Christ”, he continued. “It is a precious gift to meet Him among those who are victims and impoverished”.
Addressing members of the Jesuit Secretariat directly, Pope Francis urged them always to remain close to the most vulnerable. “Our broken and divided world needs to build bridges”, he said. Human encounters allow us to discover, in the most marginalized, the beautiful face of a brother and sister, in whom we recognize ourselves, said the Pope.
Following Christ today means serving “the crucified of our time”, continued Pope Francis. He gave examples of the wars being fought “piecemeal” around the world, of human trafficking, xenophobia, inequalities, and “the selfish pursuit of national interests”.
To these, the Pope added the fact that “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years”. Not surprisingly, he said, “the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet”.
Following Jesus in these circumstances begins by “accompanying the victims”, and continues in paying attention to human needs, “reflecting on the reality of the world to unmask its evils”, and discovering the most effective and creative responses.
Pope Francis insisted we go further: “We need a true ‘cultural revolution’”, he said, “a transformation of our collective gaze, our attitudes, our ways of seeing ourselves”. We need to undertake “the slow work of changing structures, through participation in public dialogue, where decisions are made that affect the lives of the most vulnerable”.
The Pope urged those present to continue their “creative commitment” in the service of the poorest and refugees, defending human rights and providing social services in many fields. He encouraged them to “collaborate in a network among yourselves and with other ecclesial and civil organizations”, said Pope Francis, in order to ensure “the defense of the most underprivileged in this increasingly globalized world”.
Pope Francis concluded his address to members of the Jesuit Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat with an invitation to hope. “If we pay attention to human logic alone, we run the risk of despairing”, he said. Instead, “all of us are witnesses that the humblest, the exploited, the poor and excluded, can and do achieve a lot”, he added.
The social apostolate is not to solve problems, said the Pope, “but to promote processes and to encourage hope”. These processes must help people and communities to grow, to be aware of their rights, to apply their talents, and create their own future, he said.
Pope Francis ended with a challenge: “Share your hope wherever you are, encourage, console, comfort and invigorate. Open up the future, raise possibilities, generate alternatives, help to think and act differently”.
“Walk singing”, said the Pope, “so that life’s struggles and worries… don’t take away the joy that hope brings”.