Pope Francis revealed this himself June 7, 2013, during a meeting with some 8,000 students of Jesuit schools in Italy and Albania.
“What I liked about the Society is its missionary outreach and I wanted to be a missionary,” he said in response to a question about why he was drawn to the Society of Jesus in particular.
“When I was studying theology I wrote to the General, who was Fr Arrupe, asking him to dispatch me, to send me to Japan or to some other place. However, he thought about it at length and said to me, with great kindness, 'But you have had a lung disease, which is not very good for such demanding work', so I stayed in Buenos Aires.”
“Fr Arrupe was so kind because he did not say: 'But you are not holy enough to become a missionary': he was kind, he was charitable,'” Pope Francis recounted.
“It was the dimension of mission that gave me such great determination to be a Jesuit: to go out, to go to the missions and proclaim Jesus Christ. I believe this is feature specific to our spirituality: to go out, to go out to always proclaim Jesus Christ and to never stay somehow closed in our structures, which are so often transient. This is what motivated me.”
The Holy Father will see his dreams fulfilled, at least in part, as he travels to South Korea Aug. 14-18, and then to the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January, 2015.
During his trip to South Korea, scheduled events include the beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions, who were martyred for the faith in Korea in the 19th century, and the celebration of the Sixth World Asian Youth Day.
As a young man and a Jesuit still in formation, Jorge Bergoglio longed to become a missionary in the Far East, like St. Francis Xavier and so many of his confreres in the Society of Jesus.
South Korea, Society of Jesus, Pope in Korea