Pope Benedict XVI addressed the participants of the Society of Jesus’ general congregation and encouraged them to continue in fidelity to their original charism and to “find the fullest sense of your ‘fourth vow,’” which is a professed obedience to the Holy Father in matters of where they are sent on mission and in the ‘spirit of the Church.’
The Pope continued saying, "The Society of Jesus, faithful to its best tradition, should continue forming its members with great attention to the sciences and to virtue, without conforming to mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and dialogue in very diverse social and cultural situations with the different mentalities of today's world is one of the most difficult and costly there is."
"In the attempt to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or who have difficulty in accepting its positions and messages, you must loyally take charge of the Church's fundamental right to remain faithful to its mandate and adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the Magisterium's charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety."
Pope Benedict said that this fidelity to the Church's doctrine is "a particularly sensitive point" for many Jesuits, especially theologians and those involved in inter-religious dialogue. "Precisely for this reason I have invited you [here] and I invite you to reflect on how to find the fullest sense of your 'fourth vow' of obedience to the successor of Peter that is so characteristic of you, it implies not only the readiness to be sent in mission to far away lands, but also– in the most genuine Ignatian spirit of 'sensing with the Church and in the Church' – to ‘love and serve’ the Vicar of Christ on earth with that ‘affective and effective’ devotion which must make of you valuable and irreplaceable cooperators in his service to the Universal Church."
The Pope emphasized that "this holds not only for the vow of each Jesuit” but also to the works of social justice and charitable activities they carry out.
“As you work as members of an apostolic body you have to also remain attentive that your works and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and so that many others might share your ideals and might effectively and enthusiastically join with you, collaborating in your vow of service to God and to human beings," the Pope said.
Addressing dialogue between the faith and the modern culture, the Pontiff told the Jesuits that, "The themes that are debated and questioned today, such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family, should be considered in the context of contemporary reality, maintaining, however, that harmony with the Magisterium that avoids the provocation of confusion and uncertainty in the People of God."
The Holy Father encouraged the Jesuit fathers to "continue and to renew" their mission among and with the poor. "For us, the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel." Besides making the "effort to understand and fight the structural causes" of injustice and poverty, he added, "it is necessary to fight the deep roots of evil in the very heart of the human being, the sin that separates us from God, without forgetting to care for the most urgent needs of others in Christ's spirit of charity."