Out into the deep with Ignatius
All Saints 2021 in Marseille
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Christ, who gathers us together and sends us out into the deep.
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?
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
accompany young people in the creation of a more promising future.
cooperate, with evangelical depth, in the protection and renewal of our Common Home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.