Jesuit leader reflects on Pope Francis’ GC 36 address

(America) Pope Francis’ keynote talk to the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus is “a tremendous affirmation of Jesuit vocation,” said Tim Kesicki, S.J., to America.

“The voice of the spirit, the spirit of St. Ignatius lives in the vocation of the society and in Pope Francis,” he added.

Father Kesicki, who is the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and one of the 36 delegates at GC 36, observed “two dynamics at work” in Francis’ talk, “the continuity with the Petrine ministry” and “the perspective of a Jesuit pope.” This was a historic moment: it is the first time that a Jesuit pope had addressed a general congregation.

He considered it significant that Francis quotes “with affection” what Paul VI said at the end of the 32nd General Congregation when he told delegates, “This is the way, this is the way, Brothers and Sons. Forward, in nomine Domini. Let us walk together, free, obedient, united to each other in the love of Christ, for the greater glory of God.”

The 32nd General Congregation was called to implement the Second Vatican Council’s document “Perfectae Caritatis,” which told religious orders to “go back to your charism.” For the Jesuits “the charism of the order is found in the Formula of the Institute,” Kesicki stated. This is the text that laid out Saint Ignatius’ vision for his new religious order. John O’Malley, S.J., describes it as “the fundamental charter of the order, of which all subsequent official documents were elaborations and to which they had to conform.”

In his 30-minute talk delivered in Spanish, Francis referred several times this Formula, describing it as “what is necessary and substantial.” Father Kesicki underlined that “we can’t change the Formula of the Institute, it’s the closest thing the Jesuits have to a rule.” He added that the words of the formula, however, “can lose their luster” but “when you hear them from Pope Francis, who has himself lived the Formula of the Institute, and hear him speak about the prophetic beauty of what Ignatius and his first companions did and advocated, you really appreciate their grandeur.” [More]