By Christopher Wells
At the end of the first day of his recent Apostolic Journey to Romania, Pope Francis met with the twenty-two Jesuits working in the country, speaking with them in a relaxed and family atmosphere. The transcript of the conversation was published on Thursday in the Jesuit periodical, La Civiltà Cattolica.
Desolation and consolation
Pope Francis spoke about desolations and consolations in life, familiar terms in the spirituality of St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits. Asked about how to deal with criticisms, the Pope said “it takes patience, it takes hupomeno,” the latter a Scriptural term meaning “endurance.” He said, it is especially important to remain close to the Lord with prayer, and with time spent before the tabernacle; and to remain close to the people of God, with works of charity.
Speaking about consolations, the Pope said true consolations are “those in which the passage of the Lord is made present.” He said he finds great consolations in prayer, where the presence of the Lord is felt; and in being with the people of God, especially the sick and the elderly.
Indifference, a great temptation
Responding to a later question about “indifference,” Pope Francis cited St Ignatius, who, he said, “tells us that if there is indifference, and there is no consolation or desolation, it is not good.” Indifference is “one of the great temptations of today,” he said. “We live the temptation of indifference, which is the most modern form of paganism.” Distinguishing between a type of good indifference, which keeps us from being overwhelmed by violent but passing emotions; and a bad indifference which neither laughs nor cries, Pope Francis said that “a community that cannot laugh and cannot cry has no horizons. It’s locked in the walls of indifference.”
Eastern Catholic Churches
During the encounter with the Jesuits, Pope Francis was also asked his thoughts about the future of Eastern Catholic Churches. “My position is that of St John Paul II,” he said. “The Church breathes with two lungs.” Rejecting the approach of so-called “uniatism,” the Pope said that today we must respect the current situation, and help Greek Catholic bishops to work with the faithful.
Accompanying married couples
The Holy Father also responded to a question concerning the difficulty faced by people in difficult marriages, and the path traced out in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia. Pope Francis insisted that the Synod on the Family has taken “a step on the path in matrimonial morals, passing from the casuistry of decadent scholasticism to the true morals of St. Thomas Aquinas.” Instead of offering easy yes or no answers, he explained, we must accompany couples in difficult situations. “There are very good experiences,” he insisted. But he defended the work of diocesan tribunals, which make decisions on annulments, although he recognized that there are not enough tribunals, and that in some places they don’t work well. “Lord, help us!” he prayed.
In answer to a final question about diversity – specifically, diversity within the Jesuit order – Pope Francis said that diversity is “a grace,” which shows that “the Society doesn’t cancel personalities.” At the same time, however, “we must have unity of hearts, of spirit.” Within the order, he continued, prayerful dialogue and discussion are important. “Let’s thank God we’re different!”
You can read the full transcript of Pope Francis' conversations with the Jesuits in Romania, in an English translation, on the website of La Civiltà Cattolica.