Cardinal Franc Rode, the prefect of the Congregation for Religious, was the principal celebrant at a Mass in the Gesu, the famous Jesuit church near the Vatican, where 225 Jesuit delegates are meeting this month to elect a new superior. In his homily the cardinal challenged the Jesuit delegates to correct a critical attitude toward Church authority.More
"With sadness and anxiety I also see a growing distancing from the hierarchy" among the world's Jesuits, Cardinal Rode said. He challenged the order's leaders to embrace the tradition established by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who had insisted on loyalty to the Church and the Roman Pontiff.
The cardinal said:Consecration to service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration to service to the Church. Ignatius and his first companions considered it thus when they wrote the formula of your Institute in which the essence of your charism is spelled out: "To serve the Lord and his Spouse the Church under the Roman Pontiff." It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the sensus Ecclesiae.Cardinal Rode began his homily by praising the outgoing Jesuit superior, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who is resigning after 24 of leadership. Citing the words of St. Ignatius, the Slovenian cardinal said that the new superior, to be chosen by the General Congregation, should be "a man very united to the Lord our God and familiar with prayer."
The cardinal also acknowledged one of the themes that many Jesuits have raised for discussion during this month's meetings at the Gesu: the prospects for broader collaboration with the laity as the number of active Jesuits continues to fall. The Vatican official only cautioned the delegates to ensure that "the growing participation of laity in your activities does not obscure your identity but rather enriches it."
When he spoke directly about the Jesuit identity, however, Cardinal Rode's words were sobering. "Without the gift of faith in the Church there can be no love for the Church," he told the delegates, returning to the theme of unity between the Jesuit order and the Catholic hierarchy.
Will they listen?