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The Pope, Jesuit mission and Eureka Street

  • 07 July 2022
In a recent meeting Pope Francis met the editors of European Jesuit cultural magazines. As usual in such meetings he did not give an address but invited the participants to ask questions. The questions ranged across a wide area, reflecting the different readership and religious culture of the magazines. Underlying the Pope’s responses lay a challenging and coherent approach to the Jesuit mission and to communication that invites self-reflection also among Jesuit magazines and their readers outside Europe. 

In this article I shall follow a brief summary of Pope Francis with my own reflections on the positions he took. My opinions are personal and do not represent a Jesuit or a Eureka Street position.  

When asked about the mission of magazines, Pope Francis answered that it was to communicate in ways that took account of their different situations and cultures. Within that diversity, however, they should also see their Jesuit mission to lie, not in the abstract discussion of ideas, but in communicating a personal reality based in experience.  

The Society of Jesus should not be interested in communicating abstract ideas. It is interested, instead, in communicating human experience through ideas and reasoning, through experience. Ideas are to be discussed. Discussion is a good thing, but for me it is not enough. It is human reality that is to be discerned. Discernment is what really counts. The mission of a Jesuit publication cannot be only to discuss, but it must be above all able to help discernment that leads to action.

To illustrate this point he contrasted a theoretical discussion of slavery with the conversation among a group involved with victims of human trafficking. 

The stories and the experience gave the latter an energy for change lacking in the former. This is the principle that I wanted to tell you about and that I recommend to you: reality is superior to the idea, and therefore you must deal with ideas and reflections that arise from reality. When you enter the world of ideas alone and move away from reality you end up with what is ridiculous. Ideas are discussed, reality is discerned. Discernment is the charism of the Society.

In responding to questions reflecting local situations he developed the implications of this mission. When asked about examples of spiritual renewal, he contrasted a spirituality that is ‘a closed, rigid thinking, more instructive-ascetical than mystical’ with one that accepts the reality of the Second Vatican Council