By Amedeo Lomonaco
The universal apostolic preferences of the Jesuits "are in harmony with the current apostolic priorities of the Church expressed through the ordinary magisterium of the Pope, the synods, the episcopal conferences, especially in the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’". This is what Pope Francis emphasized in a letter addressed to the Jesuit General, Father Arturo Sosa.
What has been undertaken, the Pontiff said, is a "dynamic discernment", not a "library or labour” process. According to the Pope, the first preference is fundamental because it presupposes as a "primary condition the relationship of the Jesuit with the Lord, the personal and community life of prayer and discernment".
The apostolic preferences are the result of a process of discernment that lasted almost two years. They represent "four vital areas" for today's world. Father Sosa recently said they inspire Jesuits "in their discernment and in apostolic planning".
They are the points of reference, horizons and orientations for the entire Society of Jesus. They emphasize how Jesuits can "make better use of the means at their disposal to serve Christ's reconciling mission in the world.” They are the Jesuits’ response to the needs of the Church. In a society marked by profound change, preferences are established "through socio-political analysis, theological and pastoral reflection and discernment". For the next 10 years, the 4 preferences set by the Jesuits, have been confirmed by Pope Francis.
Promoting discernment, spiritual exercises
Illustrating the 4 apostolic preferences, Fr. Sosa told Vatican News that discernment is a necessity for the Church. The spiritual exercises, he added, are a preferential path for the Jesuits. It is also fundamental, as far as the exercises are concerned, to take the path of creativity. According to the Jesuit General, new forms must be found so that the exercises adapt to different groups, realities and contexts.
Walking with the excluded
Walking with those who are discarded, said Father Sosa, means approaching the world of the poor and going to the suburbs to meet the people. "We want to take a path, he added, to promote social justice. "We want to promote a change in the economic, political and social structures that cause injustice. "We want to eliminate the scourge of abuse from the life of the Church and society,” a drama that the Jesuit General said is manifest out in various forms, including in sexual abuse and abuse of power.
Accompanying young people
According to Fr. Sosa, walking with young people also means looking at the world from their perspective. Young people, he explained, can help understand the changes in society, to grasp the sense of a new culture. We must therefore "open up spaces for young people, for their creativity", he said, adding they must also learn from the young.
Caring for the common home
The fourth preference concerns our common home – the created world. Father Sosa said we must try to participate in urgent actions that can help curb and stem the deterioration of the environment. Alternative formulas must also be sought. To respond to these preferences, said the head of the Jesuits, a great challenge is that of collaboration which he considered a strong point of their action.