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I’ve decided to bring the blog out of slumber because of the exciting events of this week.  None of us ever expected to see a Jesuit Pope. When St Ignatius founded us in the 16th Century – he diagnosed that one of the biggest problems in the church was clerical ambition i.e. the unseemly desire that priests had for power and influence within the church.  A bishopric in those times often had significant wealth attached to it.  This clerical ambition was often a proxy for greed and a channel for corruption.  So Jesuits were banned from seeking status or office in the church.  When we take our final vows – as well as the four public vows there are private vows which are taken in the sacristy afterwards, often only witnessed by the provincial and your Jesuit brothers.  One of those vows is not to seek for positions of power and influence in the church, followed by a vow to inform on any other Jesuit who you suspect of seeking office within the church. The fact that we are meant to ‘rat on’ our brothers shows how seriously Ignatius took it.  In 1603 – when St Robert Bellarmine was named a Cardinal, the first Jesuit to be so honoured,  Fr General Acquaviva wrote a letter to the whole Society, making it clear that both he & Fr. Bellarmine had left nothing undone to prevent the latter’s Cardinalate.    However under Holy obedience to the Pope, and for greater service of the church, the Pope can insist that a Jesuit must become a bishop or cardinal. This  is what happened to Cardinal Bergoglio.

proxyWhen Pope Francis appeared on the balcony on Weds evening – we were all squashed around the television with a group of excited students.  When we realised we had the first Jesuit Pope – all the Jesuits in the room panicked! Whereas our students broke out in spontaneous applause – which was lovely. It has been lovely to get so many messages of congratulations from friends, and see how proud our associates are – but I still feel slightly anxious.  When the flak starts and the attacks come – it is very difficult not to take it personally – and the worst attacks and often most uncharitable can come from within the church!  However it was lovely to have an Argentinian Student with us who is doing postgraduate political studies. He told us how he had met the Cardinal in Beunos Aires last year.  He was on the tram when he got a phone call – the voice at the other end said – its Father Mario here.  Our student was amazed that he had phoned directly – no secretary – and also that he had called himself simply Father Mario. This humility and simplicity could be a very important impulse for renewal in te Church.

130313-bergoglio-bio-04a.ss_fullAnd what a Job he has – as Schumpter said in the Economist before the election this week, ‘The Roman Catholic church is the world’s oldest multinational. It is also, by many measures, its most successful, with 1.2 billion customers, 1m employees, tens of millions of volunteers, a global distribution network, a universally recognised logo, unrivalled lobbying clout and, auguring well for the future, a successful emerging-markets operation’  Pope Francis will not be a CEO, more is expected of him – lets keep him in our prayers. It’s  a testament to efficacy of the Holy Spirit that even now in an age of vatileaks and social media – the Spirit working is still capable of confounding our expectations and our calculations.