Into the 21st Century
On March 7, 1975, on the last day of the 32nd General Congregation, which had been meeting for 96 days, Pedro Arrupe and his four newly elected general assistants left the meeting hall at the Jesuit headquarters to meet with Pope Paul VI in his offices on the other side of St. Peter's Square. It had been a rough three months. Several times during the meetings the pope, either directly or through intermediaries, had bluntly asked the assembled Jesuits if they realized what they were doing. Even more than during the 31st Congregation eight years before, Pope Paul had been upset by wild reports that “came to his ears” that the Society, supposedly especially devoted to himself, was being overtaken by radicals and Marxists and, most threatening of all, had plans to restructure the relationships among its members in a way that would alter—and weaken—its relationship to him.
Nevertheless, Arrupe and his lieutenants did their best to conclude the meetings on a civil note. They received the copy of the pope's address, which Arrupe would read to the delegates, and a gift from the pope to the Society in a large dark-green velvet and brassbound antique case, which they carried ceremoniously back to the meeting hall. It was a 17th-century crucifix once owned by the great Jesuit theologian and cardinal, St. Robert Bellarmine. Paul VI was sending them a message. Bellarmine was a loyal defender of the Holy See. But, John Padberg points out, both the pope and the Jesuits knew that Bellarmine did not hesitate to tell the truth to authority when it was called for. For example, in his political philosophy Bellarmine granted the indirect, rather than direct temporal power of the papacy at a time when popes claimed God-given authority over emperors and kings.
To complete the unfinished business of the previous meeting and to deal with the alleged abuses that had accompanied the changes of