“It is Christ who brings you together and sends you out into the deep”

Arturo Sosa, Superior General, for the EOF Gathering in Marseille, 1 November 2021

It was a rare occasion, an intense moment of fraternity that brought together so many people: Jesuits of course, but also CLC members from Belgium, France or Luxembourg, students from Jesuit educational institutions, youth teams and young professionals of Magis, members of the MCC (Christian Movement of Executives and Managers), families with children. In all, nearly 7,000 people gathered in the Marseille Convention Centre at the Parc Chanot.

It was a special opportunity for Father Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, to address a large French-speaking audience at this “Gathering of the Ignatian Family” organised by the French-speaking Western Europe Province (EOF). The address came at the end of the gathering, just before the closing Mass for the feast of All Saints that was intended to honour this wonderful crowd of persons who have been dedicated, luminous witnesses of Christ. As Father General had to leave Marseilles due to the death of his mother, it was the Secretary of the Society, Fr Antoine Kerhuel, who read his message to the assembly, a message calling for joy and hope.


What a pleasure it is for you, wrote Father Sosa, to be able to come together again after the long isolation caused by the pandemic, and to experience what it means to be in relationship - different from one another but united, thanks to the experience of St Ignatius of Loyola 500 years ago! He added that it was wonderfully audacious to have organised this gathering and set out on this journey, striving to “look out into the deep with Ignatius” - as the theme of the congress proposed. He told them that in this way they were responding to the Pope’s desire that the laity participate actively in the implementation of a “Church going forth”, open to the world and to dialogue!

Father General recalled how Ignatius’s own experience of failure, being laid low by a cannonball in Pamplona, had opened the way to achieving so much more than he could have imagined. This came about through a slow process of conversion, which we are also called to undergo, following in Ignatius’ footsteps, even when the storm is at its worst.


Father Sosa then spoke at length about the earthquake that Christians in France recently experienced: the disclosure of the report on the abuses of which priests and religious were guilty. It is not only the Church of France that has been wounded, he said, but the universal Church. He thanked several victims of sexual or spiritual abuse for being present there in the assembly, and he told them of the indignation of the Society of Jesus, its plea for forgiveness and its desire to open up paths for the future, toward a faith that will enable people to overcome despair and discouragement.

True Ignatians, Father General said, do not settle for spiritual comfort. Their faith commits them to serving the mission of Christ, each in his or her own way, according to the charism of the group to which they belong. Together, he said, the members of the Ignatian family are committed today to the spirit of the four Universal Apostolic Preferences: to show the way to God, to walk with the poor and the excluded, to accompany young people, and to collaborate in the protection of our Common Home.


In conclusion, Fr Sosa encouraged all the participants to continue to work together, to pool their respective talents and means, to insert themselves into the world, and not to live apart from it. He thanked them personally for the spiritual energy this gathering had given him. In a final call to hope, he stressed that “to be Ignatians is to experience, as forgiven sinners, the joy of the Gospel”.

You can read the full text of Father General’s speech below.

Out into the deep with Ignatius

All Saints 2021 in Marseille

Dear friends,
Dear Jesuit companions,

I am very happy to be able to share these days with you in Marseille. Glad to witness the joy of being “in the family”, with members of the CLC, with Ignatian-inspired religious, with the members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM), and other movements and communities, the young people of the educational institutions, the Jesuit companions... in short, the large and rich Ignatian family. I fully share this joy.

The many frustrations of the last 18 months have made this feeling all the stronger: how many meetings were lost or made impossible by the pandemic! Exchanges by skype, whatsapp or zoom have been valuable, but they are not enough to satisfy our desire to “form a body”, all united. There is no substitute for being together, getting to know each other and experiencing what it means to relate to each other while being very different, and to be able to come together.

I am deeply impressed by the daring of this Ignatian family in organizing such a meeting in the midst of the pandemic, with strict health measures, including seclusion. I am also impressed that so many of you have had the courage to come here to Marseille, at a time when risks to health persist. It certainly shows how important it is for each one of you to be an active part of this Ignatian family.

Added to this is the fact that the city of Marseille embodies the desire of Pope Francis for a “Church on the move”, a Church open to the world, a Church in dialogue with other religions, and philosophies... that understands and lives cultural diversity as a human asset.

Those of us present here at this wonderful meeting are a sample of such rich variety. We need only to look about us to perceive this richness. Furthermore, we have something in common that identifies us as a group: the inspiration of the spiritual experience of Ignatius of Loyola that has led us to seek, find and choose a life according to the will of God.

It is Christ, who gathers us together and sends us out into the deep.

When we decided to commemorate the 500th anniversary of that cannonball in the battle of Pamplona that shattered Inigo’s leg and dreams, we could not even imagine that we too would see many of our plans frustrated and our dreams put into jeopardy. We have gone through 18 months of anxiety, renunciation, illness, grief, quarantine… Who could have foreseen all this two years ago?

The pandemic has brought to our attention the fragility of our societies and of international political structures. It has aggravated the causes of the injustices that generate so much poverty, forced migration, violence, war... Let us not be tempted to close our eyes to the realities that we have come to see more clearly. Let us not be fooled by a false “return to normality”.

Paraphrasing the Easter experience of Jesus, we can say “happy cannonball” that allowed Ignatius to start a journey of conversion. Without that cannonball, we would hardly be here today. However, the cannonball and the wound are not everything: they were only the occasion for the beginning of a journey of conversion, a long process during which Ignatius allowed himself to be transformed by the Lord and came to see all things new in Christ. A process of conversion that, for those who open themselves to it, lasts a lifetime. A conversion that engages us in the complex task of transforming the world, contributing to the reconciliation and justice that open the door to a life of dignity for all human beings.

Here is the challenge for each one of us: how can we use our personal experience, with its frustrations, to move forward on our journey of conversion? We can do so inspired by the faith that animates us, unites us and has brought us here. That faith by which we believe that the Lord wants the best for us and for this world that He has loved so much, so much that He has given His life to free it from sin, injustice and death.

When the storm is at its height at sea, we realize what it means to let the Lord take the helm of our lives and dreams so that we can become effective partners in his mission to build a world according to his loving plan.

It is not only the pandemic that has shaken us all. The exposure of abuse by priests and religious shocks and shames us, especially since the disclosure, a few weeks ago, of the results of the investigation made by the CIASE (Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church.) It is not only the Church of France but also the universal Church that is becoming aware of the suffering inflicted in its midst. The men who were called to be “lambs sent among wolves” have behaved like wolves among lambs.

There are among us, right here, people who have suffered sexual or spiritual abuse. I warmly welcome their presence. With sorrow I acknowledge that many others cannot be present, either because they are not among us any more, or because their suffering is so unbearable that they find it unbearable to share the same space. All these people have been abused and betrayed in the trust they placed in us. I would like to pay tribute to them by sharing with them the sadness, shame and indignation that I feel at what men of the Church, Jesuits in particular, have been able to do to them. I sincerely ask your forgiveness for all the times the Society of Jesus has not acted properly in recognizing and stopping these predators. I ask forgiveness of those who suffered because we did not accept their word, their witness, when they had the courage to tell us the truth.

Today we humbly acknowledge that, thanks to the efforts of some survivors who did not lose heart, but continued to bear witness and raise the alarm, we are moving forward. Thank you! You help us to move forward with determination towards the truth of the past. You invite us to devote all our energy into repairing the Church and making it a safe home for all, especially the smaller ones.

This crisis of abuse in the Church, like the pandemic, could still defeat us. Yet we again ask earnestly for the gift of faith that leads us to meet the Lord so that, like the cannonball that wounded Ignatius, our hope may be rekindled and our faith may become creative, capable of overcoming despair or discouragement, a faith that engages us in works of reconciliation and justice, moved only by the love that leads us to lay down our lives so that others may have life in abundance.

As followers of Ignatius, we are called to live the faith that detaches us from any kind of spiritual comfort. We are called to live our faith by putting ourselves generously at the service of Christ’s mission. Each of the groups, communities, congregations, movements... present here is invited to discern spiritually and in common how best to cooperate in that mission.

As the Society of Jesus, we have received from the Pope the confirmation of a common discernment, requested by the 36th General Congregation, carried out over many months by the entire universal apostolic body, Jesuits and companions in mission. Pope Francis has confirmed and specified four apostolic preferences for the decade 2019-2029 that are worth remembering:

• To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and the discernment of spirits.

• To walk alongside the poor, the outcasts of the world, people whose dignity has been violated... in a mission of reconciliation and justice.

• To accompany young people in the creation of a more promising future.

• To cooperate, with evangelical depth, in the protection and renewal of our Common Home.

You can see that the challenges are enormous. They are formulated in a very action-oriented way: to show, to walk, to accompany, to cooperate... I am very glad to see how the apostolic preferences have marked this meeting, especially through some of the workshops in which so many have participated. This reassures me that they are well received and applied throughout the EOF province. It shows me how Jesuits, religious and laity are working together in shared mission and growing in networking.

There are a few hundred Jesuits here amidst thousands of others in the Ignatian family, engaged in the same mission of Christ that is the mission of the Church. I encourage you to continue on this journey, working together, trusting each other, correcting each other when necessary, and pooling your respective talents and resources. Grow in your personal, communal, global and institutional commitment to the world, not in a superficial, illusory way or seeking to escape from it, but to the concrete, multifaceted, real world in which we are inserted.

Let us especially not forget, today, our brother Philippe Demeestère who, together with two other persons, are on hunger strike to make us aware of the situation of the refugees in Calais.

During these days in Marseille, we have been touched without any doubt by at least two dimensions of our shared experience: by the feeling of being part of a rich Ignatian family, happy in its diversity, and by the renewal of the joy and the hope that comes from the paschal experience, even in the midst of great difficulties. You have tasted it over these days! To be Ignatian is to live, as forgiven sinners, the joy of the Gospel and to be sent out into the deep.

I thank you for all the fresh energy that I have received during this meeting. I will be a witness to it when I return to Rome.

Arturo Sosa, SJ

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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