Monday, January 07, 2008

The "Black Conclave" Opens

After more than two years of preparations, the General Congregation of the Jesuits began this morning in Rome with a papal delegate's call for enhanced fidelity from the church's largest religious community.

Representing Pope Benedict, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode CM, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, celebrated the opening liturgy of GC35, which'll shortly see the election of the Society's new superior-general to replace the retiring Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

In his homily at the Mass, held in the Jesuit mother-church of the Gesu, Rode said that "with sadness and apprehension," he noticed an increasing lack of "sentire cum ecclesia" -- the "thinking with the church" -- on the part of "some members of the religious families."

What's more, the cardinal added that, with "sadness and apprehension," he sees "a growing detachment from the hierarchy" among the Jesuits.

"The Ignatian spirituality of apostolic service 'under the Roman pontiff' does not accept this separation," he said.

"Your work must be eminently apostolic with a universal, human, ecclesial apostolic breadth," Rode said. "It must always be accomplished in the light of your charism, in which the growing participation of the laity in your activities must not obscure your identity, but rather enrich it."

Led by Kolvenbach, the 226 delegates concelebrated the Mass, most of which was said in Latin. Following the liturgy, the outgoing Father-General lit the traditional lamp at the tomb of Ignatius of Loyola to burn for the duration of the gathering. While the delegates' rooms have been booked for two months, the GC will remain in session until its business is finished.

The increasing presence of laity in Jesuits apostolates is high on the congregation's agenda, as is its vow of obedience, and how its "true spirit... [can] be renewed in the Society today."

Representing the community's Italian province (which he once headed), among the delegates is the "papal spokesman" Fr Federico Lombardi. Led by the new Father-General, the congregation's audience with Pope Benedict has been scheduled for 21 February, the eve of the Feast of the Chair of Peter.

SVILUPPO: More from CNS:
"Consecration in service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration in service to the church," Cardinal Rode said....

"Love for the church in every sense of the word -- be it the church as the people of God or the hierarchical church -- is not a human sentiment, which comes and goes" depending on who its leaders and members are at any given moment in history, Cardinal Rode said.

"Love for the church is a love based on faith, a gift of the Lord which, precisely because he loves us, he gives us faith in him and his spouse, which is the church," he said....

"The fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in uniting love for God with love for the hierarchical church," Cardinal Rode said.

The cardinal said the world urgently needs to hear the proclamation of the truth revealed in Scripture and tradition and authenticated by the official teaching of the church.

"The doctrinal diversity of those who ... by vocation and mission are called to announce the kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits," he said.

The cardinal also urged the members of the General Congregation to continue and to strengthen the work of the Jesuits and their institutions in stemming and reversing a separation between faith and culture, especially by being men of deep prayer as well as highly educated.

"It is not possible to transform the world or to respond to the challenges of a world which has forgotten love, without being firmly rooted in love," Cardinal Rode told them.

As they elect a new superior and make decisions for the order's future, the Jesuits must give priority to imitating St. Ignatius, whose life was marked by generosity, penance, apostolic zeal, obedience, charity, fidelity and "love for the hierarchical church," Cardinal Rode said.