Vatican News
File photo of Jesuit Father Ferenc Jálics (1927-2021) File photo of Jesuit Father Ferenc Jálics (1927-2021) 

Hungary mourns Jesuit priest who taught Pope Francis

Hungary is mourning Jesuit Fr Ferenc Jálics, who years ago counted Pope Francis among his students. He died in Budapest on Saturday at the age of 94.

By Stefan J. Bos - Budapest, Hungary

The Hungarian Society of Jesus confirmed that Jesuit Fr Jálics passed away following a turbulent but spiritually fulfilling life. He authored numerous books on Christian spirituality, and became the founder of a school of contemplative prayer. 

Born in Budapest in 1927, he saw the impact of conflict when he was sent to Nuremberg at the end of World War Two, after attending military school. 

He came back to Hungary in 1946, where he decided to live for Christ and join the Jesuit Order. But it wasn't easy. Hungary's then Communist dictatorship was cracking down on devoted Christians and religion. 

The Jesuit priest was even forced to leave his native Hungary in 1948, along with many other young Jesuits. However, he didn't give up his spiritual journey. 

He first studied in Germany before graduating in philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. In 1956, the Jesuits sent the young man to Chile and then a year later to Argentina, where he was ordained a priest in 1959. 

He became a professor of Theology and the spiritual director of many young Jesuits.

In a recent interview, Fr Jálics revealed that Jesuit Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio was among his students at one point. That student would one day become Pope Francis.

Teaching the future Pope Francis

Fr Jalics said: "I taught a few technical short courses in Theology, as we have long and short courses." 

He confirmed that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was among those attending one of his classes. "In this respect, we had known each other for a very long time," he added, laughing. 

While doing social and educational work in Argentina in 1976, Fr Jálics was abducted along with a Jesuit companion. He was held for five months during massive state repression of left-wing activists, union leaders, and social activists known as the "Dirty War."

But that experience did not stop his Jesuit ministry. In 1977 Fr Jálics moved to the United States and a year later to Germany.

Contemplative retreat house

In 1984, he founded a retreat house in the German town of Gries. It became a place of pilgrimage for Christians looking for contemplation.

He finally returned to Hungary in 2017, which had become a European Union member state. He is now mourned in his native Hungary as a spiritual leader.

15 February 2021, 19:12