The five day meeting of the Extended General Council (Consiglio Allargato) began on Monday September 3rd with a Eucharist with the Jesuit community. The meeting lays the ground for the January 2019 discernment of the Universal Apostolic Preferences. Below are extracts from Fr General’s opening remarks.

Universal Apostolic Preferences

Father Arturo Sosa spoke first of the Apostolic Preferences. He emphasised that this process, in which the whole Society of Jesus is involved, can lead to a reanimation of the Society; it can also show a special way to live our relationship with the Holy Father. Discernment has already taken place in most provinces and meetings of conferences of provincials will now move the process forward.

Reanimation of the Society

“The first (issue) is the importance that the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP) can have in the reanimation of the apostolic body of the Society and in the orientation of its apostolic planning in the years to come… [T]here is a great responsibility to find a formulation of UAP that helps as much as possible toward that end”.

Relationship to the Holy Father

“[We] see in the formulation of the apostolic preferences an occasion to live “sacramentally” the connection of the Society of Jesus to the Church through its availability to the Holy Father circa missions. The process of discernment in common … seeks to deepen our availability for collaboration in the mission of the Church in the way that the Holy Father thinks best. Therefore, I will go to the Holy Father not only seeking confirmation and blessing…but rather to receive from him the accents of the mission of the Society in the next years through apostolic preferences received from his hand.”

Fr. Sosa said that Pope Francis is glad that the process is conceived as one of tension between the future and the present. The Pope also insists on the need to take into account the vulnerability of so many persons. While the word ‘reconciliation’ has in some circles been devalued, we need to explain it and use it well.  “It is at the center of the message of the Gospel from the beginning of the life of the Church” said Fr Sosa.

“What I will communicate to the whole Society will be the mission we will have received from the Holy Father with a plan for assimilating it” he added. “This follow up can become an effective instrument to achieve the desire expressed by the members of GC 36 to have a central government focused on mission.”

To contemplate the world through the eyes of the poor.

Father Sosa then spoke of “the challenge of recovering the proclamation of the faith and the pastoral accompaniment of human and Christian maturation as the axis of all that we do. We need to propose again in a fresh way the first proclamation of the faith.”

He emphasized the importance of Christian communities and their ability to discern:

“If they are communities able to discern, then they will be communities able to welcome those who are different; to initiate and accompany new ways of giving a word of hope to people who, in the traditional way of focusing the moral teaching of the Church, do not have space, or do not find a place in society but who, as human beings, are also called to live an experience of God. Communities open to the young, to listen to the young. Communities open to promote equality between man and woman, which in contemporary societies still does not exist.”

Still on the issue of the Church, he said,

“The Church today still faces the challenge of incarnating definitively the ecclesiology of Vatican II. To become a Church “People of God”, a Church community of communities, a Church open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a Church able to discern …  a Church that leaves behind internal power struggles and does not worry about gaining or maintaining social prestige by the standards of those who dominate the world.”

Forming universal citizens

An inescapable dimension of our apostolic action, in Fr. Sosa’s vision, is to contribute to forming universal citizens in this plural and multicultural world.

Safeguarding

Fr Sosa emphasized the promotion of a culture of safeguarding of children and vulnerable people.

Our apostolic poverty

General Congregation 36 insisted on real closeness to the poor. This also implies an austere life on our part said Fr General:

“Although poverty is not an ideal but rather the fruit of structural injustice (sin), one of the greatest signs of in-humanity, it is also the way of redemption if we make ourselves poor as Jesus did.” said Fr Sosa. “I propose to invite the apostolic body of the Society to an examen and discernment of our apostolic and religious life in poverty from which will flow not only orientations for the proposed revision but also effective ways to come closer to the life of the poor and to acquire that vision so characteristic of the disciples of Jesus.”

The Extended Council meets from September 3rd to 7th . Fr General’s usual Council is joined in this meeting by the Conference Presidents, the Sector Secretariats and the General Treasurer.