General Congregation 31 to Pope Paul VI (1966)

The members of the 31st General Congregation issued the following statement to Pope Paul VI at the closing of more than 140 days of sessions. The statement notes how the delegates had “taken care to adapt our laws to the new needs of our times” while trying “to renew and encourage the religious life of the Society.”

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Most Holy Father:


Our 31st General Congregation, happily bringing to an end its two sessions of hard work, rejoices in this opportunity to express to you its deepest feelings and to give you heartfelt thanks for the good will which you showed to us when, as we began our work, you received us in audience and inspired us with a fatherly address and when now, after you have followed our labors with your counsel and your prayers, you wished to bring them to a climax with today’s concelebration as a sacred seal.

We well know that we can do nothing more pleasing to you than to offer to you the decrees which we have passed in our General Congregation, religiously following the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council. We want the Society of Jesus in our age most faithfully to carry out that mission which Ignatius took on among the people of God, eagerly to serve the Church of Christ under the Roman Pontiff. The Society will carefully adapt its apostolic ministries both to the wishes of the Holy See and to today’s needs, fulfilling in the first place that responsibility to resist atheism with united force which you have in a special way wished to ask of us.

To this end we have taken care to adapt our laws to the new needs of our times. But at the same time, mindful that the effectiveness of our apostolate intimately depends upon our union with Christ, we have tried to renew and encourage the religious life of the Society.

May God grant that we fully put into practice our proposals and that the Society always be for you, Most Holy Father, and for the whole Catholic hierarchy, a strong support in the works of the apostolate. We do not deny that because of human weakness we have sometimes failed in that fidelity which we have promised to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, and we are sincerely sorry that even from our members have come causes of anguish to you. But your apostolic blessing will ask for us from the Lord the abundant graces by which we shall be able to work better, in a more holy way, more effectively for the glory of God and the good of souls.


Rome, November 16, 1966.




Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, “Letter of the 31st General Congregation to the Supreme Pontiff,” pg. 242.