During the week of 16 to 20 November, Father General
met with his Council to discuss themes for reflection that, without being
linked to specific situations of the Society of Jesus, influence the whole of
its functioning and its commitments.
Among these themes, the meeting considered some of the
effects of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced throughout the world. The
Secretary for the Service of Faith, James Hanvey, facilitated these
conversations, focusing on the ways in which the major religions have responded
to the unprecedented situation we are facing. Can the pandemic encourage
rapprochement between religions, fostering inter-religious relations?
The first part of Father Hanvey’s presentation, which
was essentially Ignatian in character and linked to the Spiritual Exercises of
St. Ignatius, dealt with the Trinity’s view of the world at the time of COVID.
Not without statistical elements, of course, but more importantly, his
presentation was an opportunity to measure the consequences of the pandemic on
the world. Destabilisation, restriction of freedoms, tests of credibility for
public authorities and governments, increase in the technological surveillance
of people, increase in public debt all may have consequences for future
But Father Hanvey’s presentation also highlighted new
forms of social connections, links between communities, as well as new ways of
working that require a revision of labour laws and an obligation to reorganise
social space to take into account a world where all are interconnected. More
broadly, the pandemic offers an opportunity to “wake up”: together we must do
better. International organisations, in particular the WHO (World Health
Organisation) will play a more important role in the future.
James Hanvey then focused on the responses to
the present situation proposed by thinkers from various religious traditions.
He referred to proposals from Christianity, Buddhism, Protestantism, the
Orthodox world, Judaism, Islam, African and indigenous religious traditions. It
would be unfair to try to summarise here in a few sentences how religions can
contribute positively to the current context. However, here are a few ideas
that stand out.