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Rome, February 25 2008, n. 19
At 10:30 on February 21, a large group of Jesuits were gathered at the Bronze Gate leading to the Apostolic Palace. The 225 members of 35GC together with Congregation staff and some representatives of the Curia were escorted to the splendid Aula Clementina where the Holy Father was to meet them at 11:30. After a few minutes delay, the Holy Father made his entrance into the aula, smiling and welcoming. On behalf of the Congregation, Father General read a short (six minutes) but cordial salutation to the Pope. Then, meeting the palpable expectation of the audience, the Pope read his 21 minutes allocution. His two references to Father Kolvenbach were punctuated by the applause of the audience. At the end of the allocution Father General introduce to the Pope the members of his Council who received from the Holy Father a memento of the visit. When the Father Kolvenbach’s turn came, the smile and the handshaking of the Pope visibly evidenced the warm relationship maintained over the last years. By 12:30 the audience was over and the members of the Congregation returned to the Curia exchanging on the way the impressions they had received.
At 15:30 the Congregation began, again, its was work in plenary session. Spontaneously the interventions turned to the audience of the morning and the satisfaction that it has produced in them all evident. “An allocution coming from the heart”, commented one, clearly signaling the esteem in which the Holy Father holds the Spiritual Exercises, and his appreciation for the service that the Society has offered to the Church in the past. The Pope did not hesitated to repeat the words of Paul addressed to the Jesuits in 1974: Whenever in the Church, even in the most difficult fields and the front-lines, in the social trenches there was or is a confrontation between the urgent needs of mankind and the Christian message, there were and are the Jesuits. Some delegates were impressed by the words of Benedict XVI at the end of his allocution. Referring to Saint Ignatius’ prayer, Take, Lord and receive, as an unexpected sign of confidence he commented: it is a prayer that I always thought so demanding that I hesitated to pray it. even if it is a prayer that we should always embrace.
The afternoon session clearly manifested the impact that the words of the Pope has occasioned in the delegates. The “consolation” was such that one member of the Congregation warned: “Saint Ignatius taught us that no change should be done during the time of consolation or desolation….Let us be careful not to make today decisions that we may regret later…”
Once more, the selection of the hymn and opening prayer for the morning session was extremely well done. On the feast of the Cathedra of Saint Peter in Rome, the Tu es Petrus hymn echoed the audience of the previous day with Peter’s successor, while psalm 116 (I will fulfil my vows to the Lord before all people) was a clear indication of the promise of the Society “to serve the Lord alone and the Church his Spouse under the Roman pontiff”.
During the day’s session the commission working on the document addressing Apostolic Obedience in the Society presented a second draft which was duly discussed and on which they made comments. The draft went back to the commission for further refinement before the final voting.
The documents now in preparation fall into three groups: decrees, mandates and recommendations. To the question regarding the difference among the three types, one member of the Congregation who has read carefully the documents of previous Congregations offered a clarification.
A decree is the typical mode of an official pronouncement of a General Congregation Usually, decrees embody a piece of legislation or juridical intent. The need of a decree usually arises from changed historical circumstances. In the last century, decrees on poverty, obedience, mission and justice have helped the Society to remain true to itself in the midst of a changing world.
The mandate grants to the Superior General the authority to make certain changes. It entrusts to Father General the task of doing as he sees fit while making clear that the topic is an important one.
The meaning of recommendations is close to the meaning of the world in daily life: suggestions to Father General regarding some points but leaving up to him the final decision.
This clarification will be useful now that the various commissions work on the last drafts to be submitted to a final ballot.
The coordinating committee has communicated that the closing of the GC35 will take place on the evening of March 6, Thursday, with a concelebrated Mass.
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