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JESUITS-OPEN (UPDATED) Jan-8-2008 (780 words) xxxi

Before St. Ignatius' tomb, Jesuits pray for guidance with election

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Before the tomb of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, 225 Jesuits prayed that God would be present with them as they elect a new superior general and that he would make his will known to them.

The Jesuits' General Congregation opened Jan. 7 with Mass in Rome's Church of the Gesu, which houses the tomb of St. Ignatius.

At the end of the Mass, the current superior, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 79, lighted an oil lamp before the founder's tomb and led his confreres in reciting St. Ignatius' "Suscipe" prayer:

"Take, Lord, and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess; you have given it all to me, I now give it back to you, O Lord. All of it is yours now, dispose of it according to your will; give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me."

Father Kolvenbach convoked the General Congregation to consider his request to retire, to elect a new superior and to discuss major issues facing the Society of Jesus and its more than 19,000 members.

Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass, thanked Father Kolvenbach for his leadership and encouraged the Jesuits to elect a successor who would help all the Jesuits remain united and devoted to the church, its members and its hierarchy.

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

The cardinal told the Jesuits that it is with "sorrow and anxiety" that he has seen even members of religious orders weaken their attachment to the institutional church and their fidelity to its official teaching.

"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.

"With sadness and anxiety, I also see a growing distancing from the hierarchy," he said, emphasizing that St. Ignatius insisted his companions exercise their ministry under a particularly close bond of obedience to the pope.

"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.

The General Congregation began in the afternoon with the election of a secretary and assistant secretary who will run the meeting until a new superior general is elected, probably around Jan. 19.

Father Luis Orlando Torres, a Puerto Rican and the Jesuits' general counselor for formation, was elected secretary. Father Ignacio Echarte, a priest from Spain's Loyola Province who oversees the international Jesuit communities in Rome, was elected assistant secretary. The names of both men have been on media lists of potential candidates for the office of superior general.

Another business matter settled at the meeting Jan. 7 was the formation of a commission to ensure that no Jesuit has violated the rules of the order by aspiring to become the next superior. The commission is made up of the Jesuit delegate from each region who has been in the order the longest.


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