Catholic World News News Feature
Remember 4th vow, Pope urges Jesuits February 21, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI gave the world's Jesuits a pointed reminder of their oath of fidelity, during a February 21 audience with participants in the 35th general congregation of the Society of Jesus.
Meeting with the Jesuit leaders as they concluded their general congregation-- at which they had elected a new superior general, Father Adolfo Nicolas-- the Holy Father stressed that the Jesuit order today should act "in full fidelity to the original charism."
That original charism, the Pope continued, is marked by devotion and obedience to the Church and the Roman Pontiff; he reminded the Jesuit leaders of St. Ignatius' demand that his followers should always work "with the Church and in the Church."
Preserving harmony with the Church, Pope Benedict continued, is a particularly important task today, at a time when there is a "confusion of messages" in society on many fundamental issues. He exhorted the Jesuits to seek "that harmony with the magisterium that avoids causing confusion and uncertainty among the People of God." All members of the Society of Jesus, he said, should "adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the magisterium’s charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety."
"I well understand that this is a particularly delicate and troublesome issue for you and for many of your colleagues," the Pope told the Jesuit officials. Nevertheless he said that the Jesuit order must tackle the challenge and "regain a fuller understanding of your distinctive 'fourth vow' of obedience to the Successor of Peter."
During their general congregation, the Pontiff noted, the Jesuits had discussed some of the most critical debates of the day, "such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family." On these issues, he said, the Church needs the intellectual support of the Jesuit order, to protect Catholic teaching on points that are "increasingly under attack from secular culture."
Pope Benedict expressed his confidence that the Jesuit order could become a powerful force for Catholic truth in today's world. The Society of Jesus, he said, is "a religious order which in the course of its 500-year history has been capable of challenging cultural historical adversities to bring the Gospel to all corners of the world."
The Pope encouraged the Jesuits to continue their work among the poor, but cautioned that this work should not be politicized. He observed that "the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel." And while fighting against injustice, he added, the Jesuits must remember that it is also necessary "to fight the deep roots of evil in the very heart of the human being, the sin that separates us from God."