The documents from the 36th General Congregation (GC 36) of the Society of Jesus have been published. The 17 documents which include two formal decrees – one on Mission and the other on Governance – will be the basis of a discussion to be held this week by the JCAP Major Superiors and Directors and Secretaries of Works. They will review and reflect on GC 36 and its implications for the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific at the province level and on its Apostolic Plan 2014 to 2019.
GC 36 was formally convoked on December 8, 2014 and after much preparation, more than 200 Jesuits from around the world, including 22 electors from the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, gathered in Rome from October 3 to November 12 last year to elect their Superior General and to address priorities for Jesuit life and work in the current world situation.
As the ultimate governing body of the Society of Jesus, a General Congregation legislates any changes deemed necessary and agrees on the publication of a number of documents once the Congregation has concluded.
The GC 36 documents were published on January 6 through a formal Letter of Promulgation issued by Fr Arturo Sosa, who was elected Superior General on October 14, and have been circulated electronically to Jesuits across the world.
The decree on Mission highlights several key elements, in particular the current situation of the world, which is experiencing “a time of crisis” when people are not easily able to identify their spiritual roots and seem to have lost their sense of faith in God. It also considers Jesuit life, reiterating the need for Jesuit communities to become a place of encounter and sharing, in which simplicity of lifestyle and openness of heart allow them to reach out and share with others; constant spiritual renewal so they can be capable of enflaming those they counter with compassion; and reconciliation with God, humanity and creation through their ministry of justice and peace.
Three short documents covering technical modifications to the Society’s Constitutions and the Complimentary Norms, a number of topics that the Congregation asked Father General Sosa to explore, form part of the documents on the decree on Governance, which is directed towards improving the internal ways and practices of the Society at the universal level, a topic that was discussed in GC 35 in 2008 but needed to be updated with the experience of the past few years.
“The changes called for by GC 36 are relatively subtle, but clearly directed to intensifying cooperation across the Society and in networking with partners. The six Jesuit Conferences are asked to build the Society’s capacities for international cooperation in serving a faith that does justice,” said JCAP President, Fr Mark Raper SJ, who was in the Commission on Renewed Governance for Renewed Mission. “In these hard times of conflict, inequity, displacement of many and the ravages to the environment, cooperation is needed more than ever.”
Fr Raper added “Despite the diminishing number of Jesuits, yet thanks to the growing number of partners with whom we collaborate, there is an increased vitality in the ministries with which the Society is associated. We cannot take credit for all of this. Our commitment is to engage with others in serving God’s mission, and the new technologies today mean new ways of communicating and thus of organising, for example, in networks. These exciting developments will be seen, we hope, more in practice than in the documents.”
The other documents from GC 36 include an open letter to Jesuits in Conflict Zones, the text of Fr Lombardi’s reflection in appreciation of Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ on the occasion of the latter’s resignation as Superior General, the texts of four key homilies that were preached during the Congregation, and the Address of Pope Francis to GC 36 and the Question and Answer session following his address.