Pope Francis meets with Jesuits in Hungary on 29 April 2023 Pope Francis meets with Jesuits in Hungary on 29 April 2023  (Vatican Media)

Pope to Hungary's Jesuits: 'Young people need consistent witness'

The Jesuit Review 'La Civiltà Cattolica' publishes the exchange between Pope Francis and his Jesuit confreres in Budapest, during his Apostolic Journey to Hungary.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

While in Budapest, Pope Francis met on 29 April with his Jesuit brothers ministering in Hungary for a private moment of conversation.

On Tuesday, the Jesuit review La Civilta Cattolica published the exchange between the Pope and his fellow Jesuits, which took place in the Apostolic Nunciature in the Hungarian capital on the second day of his Apostolic Visit to Hungary.

The full text of the conversation, written and published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, can be read on the publication's website.

The Holy Father normally reserves a private moment to meet with his Jesuit brothers during his Apostolic Journeys, where he responds to questions in an informal conversation with those gathered. 

Fr. Spadaro introduced the conversation by recalling the Holy Father warmly greeting, one by one, the 32 Jesuits present, and encouraging them to freely ask him whatever they pleased.

The questions during the encounter were wide-ranging, but several focused on how to properly minister to young people and young seminarians.

Consistent, authentic witness

Asked how to minister to young people, Pope Francis called for testimony and witness, insisting on the necessity to always offer a "consistent" example. 

The Pope stressed, especially for young seminarians and priests, how precious and necessary it is to maintain close relationships with and learn from the wisdom of elderly people, especially elderly priests.

"With young people in formation," the Pope said, "one must speak as adults, as one speaks to men, not children," noting they must be properly introduced to the "great spiritual experience" of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

"Young people," he continued, "do not tolerate double-speak, that is clear to me. But being clear does not mean being aggressive. Clarity must always be combined with amiability, fraternity, fatherhood."

"The key word is 'authenticity,'" he said.

Return to Hungary

The Holy Father was asked about his return to Hungarian territory in less than two years, the first brief stay in Budapest having been in September 2021 for the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

"The first time I had to go to Slovakia, but Budapest was having the Eucharistic Congress. So I came here for a few hours. At the time, I made a promise to come back, and here I am!"

Condemning abusers

Another question asked the Pope for clarity on how one can live God's mercy and compassion when faced with someone who has committed inexcusable acts of abuse.

The Holy Father recognized how even if God's merciful love extends to everyone, including abusers, this needs to be reconciled with the necessary punishments, and that they need to be corrected, as one would correct a brother.

He recalled the way that sexual abuse scars victims in ways that stay with them their entire lives.

"The abuser," he said, "is to be condemned, indeed, but as a brother. Condemning him is to be understood as an act of charity. There is a logic, a form of loving the enemy that is also expressed in this way. And it is not easy to understand and to live out."

"The abuser," he continued, "is an enemy. Each of us feels this because we empathize with the suffering of the abused. When you hear what abuse leaves in the hearts of abused people, the impression you get is very powerful. Even talking to the abuser involves revulsion; it’s not easy. But they are God’s children too. They deserve punishment, but they also deserve pastoral care. How do we provide that? No, it is not easy."

Pastoral visions of JPII, Pope Benedict

In a question regarding the Second Vatican Council, the Pope warned against those who wish to turn backward, noting that this "nostalgic disease" was part of his reasoning for requiring, in the recently issued motu proprio Traditionis custodes, that newly-ordained priests must receive formal permission before celebrating the liturgy according to the previous form of the Roman Rite.

He further observed that "going backward" is not in line with the pastoral visions of Pope St Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.

Precious resource of the elderly

The Holy Father also looked back at his ordination, recalling that of the five who were ordained that day, only he and one other are still living. He recalled a simple, beautiful ordination, with pomp and circumstance, and how much it meant to him that even the atheists and communists from the chemical laboratory where he worked were present.

"They were present! One of them was seized and then killed by the military." 

To the young Jesuit who asked the Holy Father his recollection about the day, noted he would be ordained in a month's time, and whether the Pope could offer him any advice.

"You want my advice? Don’t stray from the old people!"

Argentinian dictatorship

The Holy Father was also asked about his relationship with Jesuit Father Ferenc Jálics, who, in 1976, was imprisoned in the dungeons of Esma, one of the major prison, torture, and extermination centres of the Argentine dictatorship. The military regime tried to involve the then-provincial, Father Bergoglio, who instead did his utmost to save him.

"Jálics immediately came to me and we talked," the Pope recounted, recalling his release after suffering "threats and torture".

Pope Francis also recalled the other Jesuit who was arrested, Orlando Yorio.

"I advised him to go to his mother in the United States. The situation was really too confusing and uncertain. Then the legend developed that I had handed them over to be imprisoned. You should know that a month ago the Argentine Bishops’ Conference published two volumes, of three planned, with all the documents related to what happened between the Church and the military. You will find everything there."

"I want to add that when Jálics and Yorio were taken by the military, the situation in Argentina was bewildering and it was not at all clear what should be done. I did what I felt I had to do to defend them. It was a very painful affair," he said.

The Holy Father's encounter with the Jesuits in Hungary concluded with a prayer addressed the Blessed Virgin Mary, after which he offered his blessing, received some gifts, and took some photos together.

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09 May 2023, 14:40