On Saturday, August 25, during his stay in Ireland, Pope Francis dedicated a few minutes of his busy schedule to meet with his Jesuit companions of the Province of Ireland. Afterwards, Fr Leonard Moloney, provincial, wrote his impressions to Father General.
What struck him was that the Holy Father first apologized for having so little time to spend with the Jesuit group. He had chosen to give longer time, than expected, to meet with victims of abuses committed by clerics. In the presence of the Jesuits, his humanity, his humility, his delight, his ease at being with them were tangible.
We can summarize in this way what the Pope said he expected from the Irish Jesuits:
a) To do what they can to help the Irish Church to heal from the awful crisis of clerical sexual abuse, to seek reparation and to give life back to so many people;
b) To examine their ways of being and proceeding to see how they might better encourage young men to join the Province of Ireland. To this end, he proposed to stress the centrality of the joy of the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ.
The Pope was also highly critical of clericalism and any form of authoritarianism that might accompany that. He also encouraged his brothers in the priesthood to have a most merciful and pastoral approach to the hearing of confessions, condemning any tendency to ‘judgmentalism’ and prioritizing the presentation of a merciful and loving face of God.
Father Moloney, in his evocation of this unique meeting, underlined how happy Pope Francis had appeared in the presence of his companions and that his ease increased as the meeting evolved. At the request of the Holy Father who, once again, asked to pray for him, all recited a Hail Mary. The Pope then had to leave the room, not without having greeted more personally those in wheelchairs.
In short, Father Provincial concludes, it has been a wonderful opportunity for the Province of Ireland, a real privilege, even if the context of suffering and anger of the victims of abuse and of so many Irish people necessarily weighed on the climate of the day.
A detailed report of the meeting, prepared in four languages, is available from La Civiltà Cattolica: www.laciviltacattolica.it/