.- Meeting with leaders of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, Pope Benedict affirmed the genuine cultural need for the group’s apostolate but charged them to maintain the true spirit of their 16th century founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Gathering in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday morning, the Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano celebrated Mass with leaders of the Jesuit order who are currently celebrating the fifth centenary of the births of St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Pierre Favre.
Following Mass, Pope Benedict met with visiting participants, expressing his thanks to God for having given the Society "the gift of men of extraordinary sanctity and exceptional apostolic zeal such as St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Pierre Favre."
May they be enlightened and dependable guides”, he told the group, “for your spiritual journey and your apostolic activity."
The Holy Father began by recalling St. Ignatius Loyola who, he said, was "a man of deep prayer, the center and summit of whose life was the daily celebration of the Eucharist. In this way, he left followers a precious spiritual heritage which must not be lost or forgotten."
Pointing to St. Ignatius’s faithful service to the Church, Benedict addressed some of "the Church's must urgent current requirements" today, including "cultural commitment in the fields of theology and philosophy, ... and the dialogue with modern culture ... so deeply marked by positivist and materialist scientism."
In this light, he said that promoting "a culture inspired by Gospel values requires intense spiritual and cultural preparation."
The Pope recalled that another major concern of St. Ignatius was "the Christian education and cultural formation of the young,” telling the group to “Continue this important apostolate, while upholding intact the spirit of your Founder."
Moving to the life of St. Francis Xavier, the Pope recalled how Pope Pius XI proclaimed him as "patron saint of Catholic missions." And although "his mission in the East lasted just ten years, it has proved remarkably fruitful over the four and a half centuries of life of the Society of Jesus, because his example encouraged many missionary vocations among young Jesuits."
It still continues, he added, to be a model for "missionary activity in the great countries of the continent of Asia."
Lastly, the Holy Father recalled Blessed Pierre Favre, who "spent his brief life in various European countries, especially Germany where, by order of Pope Paul III, he took part ... in discussions with the leaders of the Reformation. Thus he had an exceptional opportunity to practice the vow of special obedience to the Pope 'concerning missions,' becoming a model for all future Jesuits to follow."
Pope Benedict concluded his address pointing to April 22, 1541, the date on which “St. Ignatius and his first followers made their solemn vows before the image of Mary in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the Walls." Here, the Pope called on the Virgin Mary to continue her watch over the Society of Jesus.