Episcopal ordinations, a consistory to create new cardinals, the opening of the Special Synod on the Amazon - during the weekend of 4th-6th October there was no shortage of special events in the Vatican. Without the Society of Jesus being in any way the focus of the celebrations, it participated very actively in the apostolic ministry of Pope Francis.
A month ago, the Pope announced the creation of 13 new cardinals. Among them were three Jesuits (see our article presenting Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevičius, Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich and Fr. Michael Czerny). Many Jesuits were present on Saturday, 5th October, at the ceremony presided over by the Pope in St Peter’s Basilica. Father General Arturo Sosa, one of the main concelebrants, accompanied Fr. Czerny. As might be expected, the Holy Father’s homily emphasized how being chosen as a cardinal of the Church was an opportunity for service rather than an honour. The word Francis emphasized most was “compassion”. According to the Pope, compassion should not be just occasional or sporadic; to the contrary, it must be constant. The compassion of pastors reflects God’s love for his people, especially for those who are suffering or who have difficulty finding hope. The Pope directly challenged the new cardinals, urging them to understand how they have been the object of the Lord’s compassion during their lives. He called on them to communicate this same compassion to others, and never to be signs of indifference or condemnation.
The day before, Friday, 4th October, Pope Francis had ordained four new bishops, including three members of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps working as nuncios in various countries. The fourth was Jesuit Fr. Michael Czerny, who is in charge of the section for migrants and refugees in the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. According to Fr. Czerny, whom we met in our offices a few days before his episcopal ordination, his being made a cardinal was another manifestation of the Holy Father’s concern for refugees; it showed support for their cause. Another element of the Pope’s thought - and action - came out clearly during his homily, when he stressed how important it is for pastors, whether simple priests or archbishops, to cultivate closeness to God, to the ecclesial body, and especially to the people of God. He insisted: “Do not disown the people of God”.
Finally, on Sunday, 6th October, the special Synod on the Amazon opened, another original initiative of Pope Francis. The synod brings together practically all the bishops of the Amazon region, as well as many lay people working in this region that is so important for the ecological balance of the planet. While the Society of Jesus as such does not have a specific role to play in the Synod, some fifteen Jesuits (see our article on the Synod) are directly involved either as members or in other capacities. Here again, Jesuits seek to be true to their vocation as they respond to the call of the Pope, for whom the ecological future of our “common home” is part of God’s plan for the world, a world in which life will be better for all.