"The group of advisers to Father General on Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations met in Rome from 2 to 5 September. Its job is mainly to alert and inform the General and his Council on issues, processes and involvements of Jesuits and the Church in the field of ecumenical dialogue and interreligious relations. Besides, the advisers share their thoughts and expertise on a particular topic that Father General asks them to consider. For this year and in view of the coming Synod on the Amazon, the topic was ecology or the relation with nature and creation according to Christian denominations and religions (spiritualities or ways of wisdom) that are represented in the group.
We are now eleven advisers. Three deal with the ecumenical dialogue with Oriental Churches, (Mainline) Protestants, and with Pentecostals and Evangelicals. Eight others are involved with traditional and indigenous religions of Africa, the Americas and India, with Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. After a period time during which we worked as an “autonomous secretariat”, the group is back under the aegis of the Secretariat for the service of the faith, since Fr. James Hanvey’s appointment as the new secretary. He is the “liaison officer” of the group in the Curia and was participating in the whole meeting.
We started our meeting first by listening to Father General, then by personal prayer and finally by spiritual conversation. Father General’s address focussed on three main points: the profound meaning of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (2019-2029), a “job description” of the Secretary for the service of the faith, and some questions to be addressed by this group of advisers about its way of proceeding. More precisely, we had to clarify the link between ecumenism, interreligious relations and the special call for the mission of the Society, finding ways of better working and helping the Society to embody the Universal Apostolic Preferences, and the consequences to be drawn for this group from being now integrated into the mission of the secretariat for the service of the faith.
The first part of our works was devoted to sharing experiences and thoughts with guests (Jesuits and non-Jesuits), first in small groups and then in plenary, on the general situation of the ecumenical dialogue and interreligious relations in the Society and the Church. The third day was dedicated to discussions on ecology in accordance with each Christian denomination and religion and their implications for us. Our deliberation was nourished by two presentations, one on ecology by Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, the Secretary for social justice and ecology, and the other by James Hanvey on the call for an integral ecology from the reading of the encyclical Laudato si’ of Pope Francis. The last day was mobilized by the presentation of our responses to the three questions that Father General had put to us and of some proposals to him and his Council regarding ecology. We also did some planning for the year to come."
Mpay Kemboly, SJ
Adviser to Fr. General for African Traditional Religions