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.
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
In this light, he said that promoting "a culture inspired by Gospel values requires intense spiritual and cultural preparation."
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."
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
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.