Pope Francis with the Jesuits in Budapest: closeness and immediacy
By Árpád Tóth, SJ
The Holy Father, as is customary, meets with ‘local’ Jesuits, this time with us, Hungarian Jesuits. The meeting started on Saturday evening a few minutes after six o’clock and lasted about an hour and a half. What characterised our meeting? The closeness and immediacy. As soon as he entered, the Holy Father turned to a 96-year-old companion, Father Károly, seated near the door. They immediately exchanged a few sentences in Spanish (Father Károly has served in Chile for over fifteen years). The warm gesture made us feel we were among fellow Jesuits; despite being the Pope, he is our companion. And we speak the same language. This tone of fraternity, closeness and immediacy accompanied the whole meeting. Moreover, because we were in a relatively small room, we were also physically close to each other.
The freshness of mind and good humour of Pope Francis were also fascinating. After a very long day, he gave us, Jesuits, an hour and a half and during the whole conversation, he was fully present, listening attentively.
One of the questions was about the religious
vocation, or more precisely, the Jesuit vocation. How can we attract young
people? How can we make our way of life attractive to them? Because it is! Pope
Francis emphasised the importance of the unity of life. According to an ironic
proverb, Jesuits think clearly but speak obscurely. He invited us to think,
talk, and live consistently, that is, to live our lives according to our words.
Young people immediately notice all kinds of discrepancies and obscurities, and
from that moment on, we are no longer credible in their eyes.
He also asked us to be bearers of the joy that the risen Christ nourishes. Therefore, we must not be frightened by the challenges of the present times and not judge them by saying that everything was better in the past.
In addition to talking about the youth, we also discussed about older people. They are vital and valuable community members. Pope Francis drew our attention to the importance of listening to our elders and accepting them as they are with tenderness and gentleness.
We touched on the topic of abuse from a very particular angle - that is seldom addressed - the relationship with the perpetrators of the abuse. The Holy Father emphasised that abusive actions are undeniably appalling and must be combated with the utmost rigour. Still, at the same time, we must never forget that the perpetrators, too, are and always remain children of God, and we must address them with brotherly love, even if the first almost visceral feeling is disgust. We need to provide pastoral care for both the victims and the perpetrators.
Perhaps one of the funniest moments of the evening was when one of our companions, in a very theatrical way, expressed his gratitude and joy to the Holy Father because of the canonisation of Oscar Romero. This moment, which we can safely describe as a “performance”, made everyone smile.
In short, it was an intimate encounter with the
Pope. It was a lovely gathering of our Jesuit community. After giving the Papal
apostolic blessing at our meeting’s end, the Holy Father greeted us with his
now quasi-traditional phrase: ‘Please pray for me’.
Let us pray that the international community may commit itself concretely to abolish torture, guaranteeing support to victims and their families.
We pulled one representative from each of six Conferences and asked them for their thoughts about representing their brothers at CP71. Fr. J. Lourdu Xavier represents the Dumka-Raiganj Province (DUM). Fr. Thierry Anne represents the French Speaking European Province (EOF).
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