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Pope's Letter to Jesuits' 35th General Congregation

1/20/2008 - 08:49 PST

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"Evangelization Demands a Total and Faithful Adhesion to the Word of God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2008 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to the outgoing superior general of the Society of Jesus, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, on the occasion of the 35th General Congregation of the order.

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To the Reverend Father

Peter-Hans Kolvenbach
Superior General of the Society of Jesus

On the occasion of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, it is my fervent desire to extend to you and to all those taking part in the Assembly my most cordial greetings, together with an assurance of my affection and of my constant spiritual nearness to you. I know how important for the life of the Society is this event that you are celebrating, and I further know that, consequently, it has been prepared with great care. This is a providential occasion for impressing upon the Society of Jesus that renewed ascetic and apostolic impulse which is wished by all, so that Jesuits might fulfill completely their mission and confront the challenges of the modern world with that faith to Christ and to the Church which distinguished the prophetic action of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions.

The Apostle writes to the faithful of Thessalonica of having announced to them the Gospel of God, "encouraging you and imploring you" -- Paul specifies -- "to comport yourselves in a manner worthy of God who calls you to his kingdom and to his glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and he adds: "Indeed on account of this we continually thank God because, having received the divine word preached by us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as the word of God, which works in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The word of God therefore is first "received," i.e., heard, and then -- penetrating all the way to the heart -- it is "welcomed," and who receives it recognizes that God speaks through the agent sent to deliver it: In this way the word acts in believers.

As then, so even today evangelization demands a total and faithful adhesion to the word of God: adhesion first of all to Christ and to attentive listening to his Spirit which guides the Church; humble obedience to the pastors whom God has placed to guide his people; and prudent and frank dialogue with the social, cultural and religious appeals of our time. All this presupposes, as we know, an intimate communion with him who calls us to be friends and disciples, a unity of life and of action which is fed by listening to his word, by contemplation and by prayer, by detachment from the mentality of the world and by unceasing conversion toward his love so that it may be he, the Christ, who lives and works in each of us. Here is the secret of authentic success for the apostolic and missionary commitment of every Christian, and even more of all those called to a more direct service of the Gospel.

Such an awareness is certainly well present among those taking part in the General Congregation, and I am eager to honor the great work already completed by the preparatory commission which in the course of 2007 has examined the postulates sent by provinces and indicated the themes to be faced. I would like to direct my thoughts of gratitude in the first place to you, dear and venerated Father superior general, who since 1983 has guided the Society of Jesus in an enlightened, wise and prudent manner, seeking in every way to maintain it in the channel of its founding charism.

For objective reasons, you have at various times asked to be relieved of so heavy a post, assumed with a great sense of responsibility at a moment in your order's history which was not easy. I express to you my most heartfelt gratitude for the service you have rendered to the Society of Jesus and, more generally, to the Church. My sentiments of gratitude extend to your closest collaborators, to the participants of the General Congregation, and to all Jesuits scattered in every part of the world. To all and to each should arrive this greeting from the Successor of Peter, who follows with affection and esteem the multiple and appreciated apostolic works of the Jesuits, and who encourages all to continue in the path opened by your holy founder and walked by innumerable hosts of your brothers dedicated to the cause of Christ, many of whom are inscribed by the Church among its saints and blessed. From heaven, may they protect and sustain the Society of Jesus in the mission which it carries out in this our current age, marked by numerous and complex social, cultural and religious challenges.

Indeed regarding this theme, how can one not recognize the valid contribution that the Society offers to the Church's activity in various fields and in many ways? Truly a great and meritorious contribution, one that only the Lord will be able to rightly reward! As did my venerated ...

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