Fr Arturo Sosa met with Jesuits and their lay collaborators during his first visit to this part of the world

Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ meeting parishioners after Mass at the Church of St. Ignatius
Fr Arturo Sosa meeting parishioners of the Jesuit-run Church of St Ignatius after Mass.

By Fr Gregory Tan, SJ

It was an exciting time for the Jesuits of the region and their partners in mission as Fr Arturo Sosa, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, met up with them during his recent visit to Singapore.

Fr Sosa, a Venezuelan, was elected on Oct 14, 2016, to lead the Jesuits worldwide. He was in Singapore from July 17-22 to attend a meeting of the Jesuit Major Superiors of Asia Pacific countries.

This was his first visit to this part of the world, and it gave him the opportunity also to meet the Jesuits of Malaysia and Singapore, as well as their lay and Religious partners in mission.

During such a meeting on July 22, Fr Sosa highlighted six areas of serious concern for the Church and the Society of Jesus today. These include:

– The unprecedented demographic shifts around the world as a result of mass migrations of peoples searching for a better life from poverty, conflicts or natural disasters, and the sometimes hostile reception they have encountered in the countries they have travelled to.
– The growing social inequality and widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor.
– The increased polarisation and conflict within and between countries, and the use of religion and God to justify violence, when the root causes of many problems are poverty, fear, ignorance and despair.
– The ecological crisis facing humanity.
– The “expanding digital ecosystem” with the rise of the Internet and social media which have brought many benefits, but which also present challenges because of the speed at which they have affected cultures and interpersonal relationships.
– The “weakening of politics as a means of seeking the common good”, the increasingly widespread disillusionment with politicians and governments in many parts of the world, and the corresponding risks of the rise of populist leaders who exploit people’s fear and anger.

Fr Sosa said that the Jesuit approach is to first ask how God is acting in the world in response to these concerns, and how God is calling them to share in His work of “reconciling the world to Himself in Christ” (2 Cor 5:19). The Jesuit mission of reconciliation thus contains three key dimensions of reconciliation – with God, with one another, and with creation.

In response to the mission of reconciliation with God, Fr Sosa urged Jesuits and their partners in mission to continue promoting Ignatian spirituality and other ministries that help people to “know, love and surrender to the living God”.

In response to the mission of reconciliation of peoples with one another, he called on them to promote a “generous culture of hospitality” where all people recognise their common humanity and mutual moral claim on each other, because all are created in the image of God.

In particular, special concern should be given to the displaced and marginalised, and also to promoting interreligious harmony and understanding.

Finally, in response to the mission of reconciliation with creation, Fr Sosa urged them to promote more ecologically minded lifestyles, beginning with their own and that of their communities. He also emphasised the importance of celebrating and giving thanks for creation as a starting point for changing attitudes.

Addressing the importance of collaboration in the mission of the Church and of the Jesuits today, Fr Sosa pointed out that they are all sharers and collaborators in the mission of Christ, called to live their different vocations faithfully.

Collaboration allows people to bring their individual gifts and vocations together to share Christ’s mission more effectively, he said.

Fr Sosa also emphasised the importance of Ignatian spirituality in helping them to grow in inner freedom and discernment, as well as the importance of discernment in common as a part of collaborative planning.

Collaboration itself is a witness of the transformative power of the Gospel, when Christians working together are able to support each other in a spirit of patience and forgiveness when the need arises, he said.

with the Jesuits of Malaysia-Singapore Region. 2
Fr Sosa with the Jesuits of the Malaysia-Singapore region.

Speaking with the Jesuits of Malaysia and Singapore at a separate meeting on July 19, Fr Sosa emphasised the three aspects of discernment, collaboration and reconciliation in the Jesuit mission today.

He called for the continual renewal of Jesuit vocation and community life, centred on Ignatian spirituality and discernment, as well as the Eucharist, which help in identifying more closely with Christ and His mission.

He reminded the Jesuits to foster an “affective and effective proximity to the poor” because of their centrality to the Gospel.

“Being friends with the poor, hearing them, learning from their wisdom, inspires a mission that seeks a just world where all have a place and find conditions for a dignified life,” he said.