In honor of the feast commemorating the founder of their order, Pope Francis made a last minute phone call to the head of the Jesuit General Curia expressing his desire to eat dinner with them.
According to an Aug. 1 statement issued by the Jesuits, “It was only at the last moment that he told Father General that this was his wish.”
The Roman Pontiff arrived to the community in his small Ford Focus, and made a point to greet several bystanders outside the front door of the offices of the Jesuit Curia before going inside.
Describing the visit as “wholly private and quite simple,” the Jesuits explained that after dining with the community in the refectory, Pope Francis joined them in the recreation room for coffee and “friendly conversation,” where he greeted each one personally.
Among those present were the seven siblings of Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, who disappeared in Syria last year, and whom the pontiff consoled with “words of comfort.”
Fr. Dall’Oglio had served for 30 years at the Deir Mar Musa monastery in Damascus before his 2012 exile by the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad for meeting with members of the opposition.
He is credited for having been an avid peace activist, and has drawn praise for his reconstruction of the Mar Musa complex, which became a point of interfaith dialogue. He was abducted by rebels July 29 of last year.
Also present at dinner with the Bishop of Rome was a group of EJIF, Jesuits in Formation, scholastics, who are currently holding their annual gathering at the General Curia.
Pope Francis entered his novitiate with the Society of Jesus in 1958. He received a philosophy degree in 1963 and spent the next three years teaching literature and psychology.
The now-Roman Pontiff then studied theology from 1967 to 1970, during which time he was ordained a priest. His priestly ordination was Dec. 13, 1969.
He did the final state of Jesuit formation from 1970 to 1971, and was novice master at the Jesuit seminary in San Miguel, a Buenos Aires suburb, from 1972 to 1973, where he taught theology.
In 1973, he made his perpetual vows in the Society, and that year was elected provincial for Argentina. After his time as provincial, from 1980 to 1986, he served as rector of the seminary at San Miguel, where he had studied, and was pastor of a parish in the city. He was elected to the papacy March 13, 2013.