Pope reminds Jesuits of vow of obedience

Benedict XVI has praised members of the Jesuit for their role in dialoguing with "modern culture" but reminded them of their vow of obedience to the pontiff.

The Guardian reports that the pope made the comments following a mass in St Peter's Basilica in honour of the Jesuits, who are marking several anniversaries surrounding the founders of the order, St Ignatius Loyola, St Francis Xavier and Blessed Peter Faber.

The Pope told the prelates that Loyola was a faithful servant of the church.

"And it was from this desire to serve the church in the most useful and efficient way that the vow of special obedience to the pope was born," Benedict said.

The Jesuits are renowned for their intellectual rigor and excellent teachers, scholars and scientists. Founded in 1540, the Society of Jesus is the largest religious order in the Church, with 20,170 Jesuits around the world as of 2004.

Benedict XVI said that because of their background, the Jesuits had an important job in nurturing "a dialogue with modern culture," which he said had made great progress in science but was sorely tested by materialism.

The Vatican has had a sometimes tense relationship with the Jesuits.

In a highly publicised incident, Pope John Paul II named a temporary replacement to lead the order after Fr Pedro Arrupe suffered a crippling stroke in 1981, brushing aside Arrupe's choice for an interim leader in an unprecedented change-of-command.

Arrupe, who died in 1991 and is revered by the Jesuits as a "re-founder" of the order, had pushed for the church to move for a more socially just world while remaining faithful to papal authority.

But during his tenure, some Jesuits, especially in the United States and the Netherlands, had questioned papal pronouncements on birth control, priestly celibacy and the ban on female priests.

In a more recent controversy, Jesuit Fr Thomas Reese last year resigned as editor-in-chief of the Jesuit America magazine following disagreements with the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Ratzinger.

Earlier this year, the order announced that its superior general, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, would retire in 2008 and that the order would convene a meeting of representatives from around the world to elect his successor.

Pope Reminds Jesuits of Vow of Obedience (The Guardian/Associated Press 22/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
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24 Apr 2006