Pope Francis’s historic election represents a paradox for the Roman Catholic Church.
On the one hand, Jesuits are bound by oath not to seek higher office in the Roman Catholic Church, and now one of them has been elected to its highest office: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, ……
Again, on the one hand Jesuits aren’t supposed to be in positions of authority, and yet on the other hand, they’re supposed to be obedient to the church …….. !. Jesuits often work on the margins of the church, at times overstepping boundaries set by Rome, frequently challenging Vatican authority …. and yet the conclave of ultra conservative Cardinals elect a Jesuit …………. !
During their existence, Jesuits have oft been accused of wielding too much influence, a concern that led Pope Clement XIV to suppress their order in the 1700s before restoration by Pope Pius VII in 1814.
Through the centuries that there have been significant issues between the Vatican and the Jesuit society, even their own schisms. The Jesuits’ founder Ignatius and the early Jesuits recognised that the Church was in dire need of reform. Some of their greatest struggles were against corruption, venality/cronyism, and spiritual apathy …..
Brogan Rogan’s Brief History of the Jesuits is a superb and concise account.
The Church of Rome has recognised for some time now the perilous position it was in with increasing controversy over ‘alleged’ endemic corruption, cronyism …. and worse !
I believe that she (the church) recognised the necessity for change, but significantly that this change could not happen directly from within the traditional hierarchy …..
An example of this was aired on Friday evening at 11:00pm on Radio 5 Live …. An interview with Cardinal Napier of South Africa ……. Words fail me …… I have no doubt that it will be discussed here in great detail ….. and presents Pope Francis I with his first crisis ……
Significant and historic change is required …. and the church recognises that such change could not be deferred for very much longer …… and as such has been laying the foundations for change for quite some time now ………
But the election of a Jesuit by such ultra conservative Cardinals is too significant to have occurred without a great healing within the church, and there are two intriguing fairly recent events which may explain this ……
In 1981 …..
The Superior General of the Jesuits is informally known as “the Black Pope” because of the power the position has held in the past, but in the early 1980s, when the Jesuit Superior General was sidelined by a stroke, Pope John Paul II stepped in with his own appointee, rather than allow the Jesuits to elect their own leader and met with wide disillusionment by the Jesuit order at the time. The Pope referred to that moment as “an important phase of its history. …….
And then in 2008 ……
Pope Benedict XVI received members of the Jesuit General Congregation. They later responded with a formal declaration titled “With New Fervor and Dynamism, the Society of Jesus Responds to the Call of Benedict XVI”, whereby they confirmed the Society’s fidelity to the Pope. …………
The healing was complete, and their eventual succession of the Papacy was ultimately sealed …..
Normally, if a Jesuit is appointed a bishop, he must first seek permission from his Jesuit superior before he can accept the job. In this case it is Fr. Adolfo Nicolás who is the current Superior General, elected in 2008. But it was the Directive delivered to the Vatican only one month after his election that laid the path for the eventual succession to the papacy of a Jesuit. …… the path to great change …….
And now we have our first Jesuit Pope, and the first thing he does is choose the name Francis; someone who is associated with not only poverty and simplicity, but also humility. The second thing he does, is he comes out not dressed in the full papal regalia but in the simple white cassock. If you notice he took off his stole after he blessed the crowd, only putting on the symbol of priestly authority when he did the blessing. And he started off the talk by bowing to the crowd and asking for their blessing.
You may also have noticed the absence of the adornment of the usual Gold Papal Cross, instead choosing to wear a simple Cross. No Papal Limo’s, choosing instead to don the same bus as returning Cardinals ….. The tone is already one of humility, simplicity of gentleness. …. of greatness ?
The Jesuit vow against “ambitioning prelacies” or in layman’s terms church governance by clerics of high social rank and power, is an important established Jesuit principle that signals the intent of the Roman Catholic Church with the election of Pope Francis I.
……. are we witnessing the era of Pontifex Maximus. (Latin, literally: “greatest pontiff”)
I believe we are witnessing history in the making ……..
Posted by newtz