Jesuits End Talk, Vow to Listen

By Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 17, 1995 | Go to article overview

Jesuits End Talk, Vow to Listen


Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


People of faith who worry that the open spirit of Vatican Council II may be faltering can take hope from the Jesuits.

They are throwing open several windows and a couple of doors to members of other world religions and to women. Jesuits need to listen to others, they told themselves in a recent 10-week meeting in Rome where they charted a course for the first 25 years of the next millennium.

"It's a partnership in which Jesuits are not only `men for others' but `men with others,' " said the Rev. John W. Padberg, director of The Institute of Jesuit Sources at St. Louis University.

That's an attitude change. In pre-Vatican II Jesuit gatherings, the attitude often was one of confronting other cultures, he said. Now it's listen and learn.

To better fulfill their stated mission of promoting justice and serving and proclaiming the gospels, Jesuits are encouraged to sit down with Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. They also are directed to deepen Christians' special family relationship with Jews and grow in their close relationships with other Christian denominations. Unchurched believers and agnostics also require serious listening.

"You can't deal with the present modern world, unless you take it seriously on its own terms," said Padberg, who led the Rome meeting's committee on intellectual values.

These new directions were determined democratically. It took nearly 1,000 votes to agree on the wording of the documents. Each was approved by the 223 elected representatives of the 24,000 members of the Society of Jesus, the formal name of the Jesuits.

The meeting, called a general congregation, is the 34th since the society was founded in 1540 by a Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola. "Sort of a strategic planning meeting," said Padberg. The delegates worked from 8 a.m. until past 9 p.m. for 77 days this winter.

The delegates ranged in age from 37 to 80 and came from more than 60 countries. At meals, they spoke dozens of languages. On the floor of the large, two-story assembly hall at the Jesuit headquarters near St. Peter's Square they spoke only English, Spanish, French, Italian and German.

The 23 resolutions from the meeting are being translated in Rome this month for distribution later this summer.

It was the first Jesuit Congregation since 1938 that men from every Jesuit Province, including those in the former Soviet bloc, were free to attend. At coffee breaks, western Jesuits leaned forward to hear a Romanian, a Czech, a Russian and Asians talk about years in communist prisons.

And it was the first conference in which representatives from Europe and North America were not the majority. Cultural differences were on display at daily Mass. …

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