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Filipino Jesuits on Pope visit: It’s a form of renewal

Pia Ranada
Rappler speaks to 6 Jesuit priests on what the visit of Pope Francis – the first Jesuit pope – means to them

MANILA, Philippines – When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, he became the first Jesuit to head the Catholic Church.

So for Filipino Jesuits awaiting his visit to the Philippines this month, the event is extra special. 

In the words of Jesuits in the country, his coming is a form of a renewal and his papacy so far an embodiment of what it means to be a Jesuit. Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a religious order that first arrived in the Philippines in 1581. The order was founded by soldier-turned-priest and theologian St Ignatius of Loyola.  

Rappler speaks to 6 Jesuit priests on what the Pope’s visit means to them:

Fr Tony Moreno, SJ, provincial superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines 

This is really a great event, not only for Jesuits but for all of us. Pope Francis has done so much for the Church. He’s really an inspiration, somebody who can lift us up and challenge us and can be a good role model for all of us. This event is really, as the bishops put it, a form of renewal that we can more and more enter into this theme of mercy and compassion.

I hope it’s not just being fascinated by the Pope or really wanting to see him, but it is also something that can stir our minds and hearts so we can more and more enter into this reality of mercy and compassion.

He’s asking us to go to the peripheries. We often hear him say the peripheries meaning to say at the fringes of society, to reach out to the poor, reach out to the excluded. Those who aren’t given enough attention and care. I think that is one of the very important contributions of the Pope.

Even non-believers have been so inspired by Pope Francis. You hear people saying they want to go back to Church. Some people who have not practiced their faith and now all of a sudden they are being awakened to a new experience.

When he was elected as Pope, it was a very good statement for us to also imitate him, his example. We hear many Jesuits quote him left and right. It’s not only Jesuits, it’s also the whole Church. We can relate with him. His spirituality is very much influenced by Ignatian spirituality.  

Fr Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, scientist, former president of Ateneo de Manila University

We’re very happy that he is making us spend more time to worry about poor people.

I think that we really don’t do enough and so I think he’s pushing us to do more. I’ve been to Tacloban 4 times and we’re not doing enough. 

He’s certainly a very balanced person, he’s very much for the poor but he’s also very astute. He has changed the Vatican, he has changed the administration of the Vatican Bank. 

Fr Adolfo Dacanay, SJ, theology professor

In many ways, Francis has brought a kind of fresh air in the Church. Look at what he has been saying. Things like when people ask him about gay persons and he says, “Who am I to judge?”

He’s saying there are things we have been too obsessed with like the Reproductive Health Bill or the use of condoms. There are other things like compassion and mercy. He is an incarnation of his own message.  

Fr Xavier Alpasa, SJ, faculty member at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business

It means a lot to me because I was the emcee of World Youth Day 1995 when the Pope (John Paul II) visited and because of that I actually entertained the call to religious life. So his visit again and now that I’m a Jesuit, and he’s a Jesuit, this is so profound and very rich for me. It’s like a refresher course on my vocation.

He personifies our maxims, sinner yet called. He is not embarrassed to say he is a sinner. He confesses in public. 

He’s very honest with his thinking. It’s so palpable that he practices Ignatian Freedom. Freedom meaning not attached to anything, not beholden to any ideology or any organization. He can speak his mind freely. That is admirable, that freedom. 

Fr Luis David, SJ, philosophy professor

From the moment he got elected and started to make statements, I’ve consistently recognized in his statements what collectively I think the Jesuits have always held: that kind of openness to diversity in the world, that sort of willingness to encounter complex situations and all the complexities of life and relationships between people. 

There are peripheries all over the globe and that is exactly where he goes, to the margins.

On Pope Francis’ remarks on sexual rights:

I think what Francis is doing is by addressing these issues, he’s addressing a constituency, a major part of the world which otherwise would be in a twilight zone, unrecognized, unaddressed.

He’s precisely bringing [them] back to the table of negotiation, these people who, for the longest time, have lived out on the edges, below the radar.

Fr Florge Sy, SJ, provincial assistant for Jesuit health care

The Pope is, for me, the icon of Christ and that’s why people are so attracted to him because for the longest time, we don’t really have that figure who will remind us who Christ is. 

The wonderful thing about this Pope also is even as people regard him as the icon of Christ, he himself considers us as icons of Christ. The very moment he was elected as Pope, before he gave that traditional blessing, he asked people to bless him. That’s a wonderful, humble gesture.

To the weak, he’s a reminder that they’re loved by the Lord. To the strong, he is reminding them of their mission. – Rappler.com

Join Rappler in a 100-day countdown to Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines: A journey from the Vatican to Tacloban. Tweet us your thoughts using the hashtag #PopeFrancisPH!

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.