Jesuit Fr General Arturo Sosa addressed the Major Superiors of the Asia Pacific Conference on 13 July.
Fr Sosa was due to visit Timor Leste and Australia this month, but that trip was cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Instead, Fr Sosa addressed the Major Superiors via Zoom, speaking particularly of the challenges that COVID-19 was presenting the Society.
‘The coronavirus has not yet left, and we are challenged to ask very painful questions as we face the uncertainties that lie ahead’, said Fr Sosa.
In a recent letter to the Society, Fr Sosa noted that 46 Jesuits have died from the virus. Since that letter was sent out, others have followed, particularly in Latin America. Beyond that, the impact of the virus is being felt on all of the communities the Jesuits serve.
‘The pandemic has revealed the structural injustice embedded in all dimensions of human life’, said Fr Sosa.
‘What has become clear is the accumulated lack of care, the des-cuido, that has resulted in the socio-economic inequalities and environmental degradation that in this crisis have become much more pronounced.’
He spoke of some of the particular political tensions that have arisen amid the virus, and particularly its impact on communities. The question for Jesuits is what they can do, in the aftermath of this pandemic, to profoundly transform the relationships among peoples, with nature, and with God.
‘Today, many speak about a “new normal” yet in their hearts they long for the old one which had given them comfort. We have a sense that our lives have changed because of what we have lived in these months, but we are not sure whether we have the capacity to go beyond.
‘This is not the first emergency that humanity has faced, nor will it be the last. If we want to make a difference as the Society of Jesus, we cannot leave for later the question of what specific contribution we can make to respond to the emergency, and at the same time address the causes of the injustice and imagine the path towards structural transformation.’
The response, said Fr Sosa, can be found in the framework of the Universal Apostolic Preferences, which were announced last year.
‘The terrible experience of the present time leads us to a confirmation of the discernment of our UAPs, and provides a new impulse to orient our apostolic life in fidelity to the mission received from the hands of the Holy Father.’
From 2021-22 the Society of Jesus will be celebrating an Ignatian Year, with the theme, ‘To see all things new in Christ’. Fr Sosa said this presents an opportunity to accelerate a movement along the path of reconciliation and justice, and to respond to the challenges of COVID-19.
He invited Provinces to consider activities on three different levels: activities for the broader public, giving thanks for the gift of the conversion of Fr Ignatius; activities for companions in mission, inviting them to share in the spiritual experience that carries and sustains the Universal Apostolic Preferences; and a deepening of the religious consecration of Jesuits.