08/07/2014, 00.00
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India: in renewing the Church, Pope Francis 'has woken up' the Society of Jesus

by Nirmala Carvalho
On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Jesuit order, AsiaNews interview Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ, an expert in the Scriptures and new media. Since his election Francis has been a "reviver, servant of the servants of God and messenger of peace." The papal trips in Korea, Sri Lanka and Philippines sign "of the pontiff's awareness that the Church of the future will be mainly Asian and African".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Pope Francis is reviving the whole Church and within that revival the Society too is being revived." The speaker is Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ, a Jesuit expert in the Scriptures and new media. AsiaNews interviewed him on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society, which falls today. The community from the church of St. Peter in Bandra (Mumbai), of which Fr. Fernandes is the parish priest, began celebrations on 3 August with a special seminar. On August 16, 1773 Clement XIV suppressed the institute with the Papal brief Dominus ac Redemptor. Forty years later Pius VII reconstituted the Society with the papal bull Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum. The priest reflects on the changes that Pope Francis has brought about since his election. As "the Church can not remain closed in on itself," even the Society of Jesus, "the leaders of the Church and all of us must learn to do the same".

Fr. Fernandes, you described Pope Francis as the "Reviver" of the Society of Jesus. Why?

"Reviver of the Society" is my term for Pope Francis. Actually he is reviving the whole Church and within that revival the Society too is being revived. The manner in which Pope Francis has gone about fulfilling his responsibilities as Pope is truly as 'a servant of the servants of God". By doing this he has done many things.

He has reminded us so often not only by his words but also by his life that the Jesus which Jesus 'founded' is primarily a Church of the poor. Unless the poor are given a share in the 'riches' of the earth, the earth will remain flawed more than it already is.

The resources of the world are the fundamental right and property of every human being and also of every other part of creation animate and inanimate and thus any disparity, disproportion or inequity is an aberration and anomaly.

He has also reminds us that the Church cannot remain closed in on itself (one possible reason why the Society of Jesus was suppressed was because the Society became closed in on itself), but must reach out not only to the whole world but to the whole of creation.

This is also why the Pope has often spoken about how we must use rather than abuse what God has freely bestowed on us. Right from the beginning of creation the earth was to be used for the benefit of all. However, because of our wanton destruction of these resources, we have sinned and now must repent.

The Pope is constantly asking us to read the signs of the times and to respond to situations intelligently and efficaciously. We are called to be salt of the earth and light of the world and this applies especially to the Jesuits whom Ignatius wanted that they set the world ablaze with God's love and peace.

The Pope has been at the forefront of the peace process in different parts of the world and especially during these days of conflict. He has indeed been a messenger of peace.

One sign of greatness besides many others is the willingness to admit one's mistakes and desire to make amends. The Pope is fearless in this regard. He has been willing to admit that the Church because it is also human has made mistakes. He is not one to push things under the carpet but is willing to discuss issues openly and make restitution where needed. This applies to financial transactions, paedophilia and allegations and sexual abuse.


Fr Errol, Pope Francis will be in Korea in a few days and then he will travel to the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January.  What kind of impact will he have as a reviver from an Asian perspective?  

The visit of the Pope to these two Asian nations- Seoul and Sri Lanka- must be seen in the light of the Pope's awareness of the fact that the Church of the future will be largely an Asian and African Church. To be sure there is a revival of the Church in some parts of the Europe and in the Unites States of America, Canada as also in Australia and New Zealand, Asia and Africa seem to be places where the Church is growing. This will need constant care and nurturing.

In both these places, but especially in Asia the Church will need to open herself to the varied religions, cultures, languages and changing political and sociological situations.

The visit of the Pope will create enthusiasm and his manner of proceeding will also help Bishops and other Church leaders to responds both efficiently and efficaciously to the challenges that come up. Since he is the quintessence of openness and transparency, Church leaders and all of us must follow suit.



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