“Dialogue with Filipino Coworkers,” Pedro Arrupe (1971)

Below are transcriptions of two events during Pedro Arrupe’s visit to Manilla in September 1971. The first item contains some of the reactions to remarks Arrupe had delivered, reactions from Father Vincente San Juan, Bishop Felix Perez, and others. Jerome Aixala, in providing this selection for a book published by Jesuit Sources, notes that these “passages have all the freshness and spontaneity of the unscripted word and unrehearsed delivery” at the event. The second selection represents part of a talk Arrupe gave at the Ateneo Law School. In the audience were alumni of Jesuit institutions, members of religious orders, benefactors of the Society of Jesus, and others. Arrupe’s topic was what the Society stood for around the word and, specifically, in the Philippines.

For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.




Father San Juan:  Since the hierarchies are very important, an indispensable factor, Bishop Felix Perez has consented to give his own reactions.


Bishop Perez: Father General, I was very happy to hear you repeat the word “service.” You kept on repeating the word “service,” and you saw the apostolate of the Society as one of service to the people. I was also happy to hear you say that it is for the people now, the lay people, to find their solutions and all that we can do is to help them find these solutions.


Having that in mind, if you exclude the retreat house you have in Cebu, you have all your men in Luzon and in Mindanao. If you compare the work of the Society in the two areas—Mindanao and Luzon—I’m sorry to see that only the Jesuits of Luzon are here and it might sound as if I’m criticizing, but I think it’s true—the church in Mindanao is more vital, more dynamic.


There are many reasons for that. But I feel that your men have contributed to that—very much so! In fact, the guiding spirit of the Mindanao Congress that they will hold in November is Bishop Claver himself. I was going through the schema of the Congress, and they are talking of the Theology of the Community. They will talk of the Theology of Community, the Worshipping Community, the Community of Service, which I think are areas which all of us should be thinking about.


I feel that the Jesuits in Mindanao are closer to the grass roots than they are here. Well, that is historical. I mean, we cannot help that, but I feel that we have to get closer to the grass roots if we are going to help the people.


You were talking of the faith of the people—the great faith of the Filipino people … and it is these people, the masses, as the students call them: the farmers, the fishermen … these are the men who can keep the country Christian. And so I feel there is need for the Society, especially in Luzon, now, to go more to the grass roots.


Father San Juan: There’s a wide variety, I think, of ideas that have been given. We’re thankful to the reactors and to Father General. I think we should give him a free hand now to pursue the points that he would wish.


Father General: Well, I would ask about one point which interests me very much. It is the idea of His Excellency speaking of the Society going more to the grassroots. The other point is what Senator Manglapus says about the declaration of our schools, that we are ready to have schools open for all. I didn’t catch the meaning of this. I would like to have more clarification because it is a very important point and I didn’t understand what you meant.


Then I would say, the idea of individualism and community, because we have the reputation, the Jesuits, of being very, very individualistic. I think the question of community spirit is a fundamental point to develop. The community base is very important.


And then the question which is most difficult … I don’t know if you have the answer … but it is very important what kind of men do you want to form in the Philippines. What are the needs for education? What kind of men?


Therefore these four points to start with, because from these will develop many other things, probably. I am most curious about the grassroots. What do you mean, Excellency, about seeing the Society more in contact with the common people among the grassroots in Luzon, or in Mindanao, or anywhere?


Bishop Perez: Father, in Mindanao, you have a great number of parishes, which you do not have here. Here, you only have schools like San Pablo, Naga, and the Ateneo de Manila—and as has been commented, they cater more or less to a certain class of people. In Mindanao, you run parishes. I think this is a direction that you should take here also in Luzon.


Father General: Would Your Excellency include in this, for instance education for the poor, or to have more Jesuits living in the slums of Manila, not only giving testimony of poverty but also, more identified to the real needs of the people? What, in the concrete, would you advise us to do?


Bishop Perez: When you kept saying at the end of each topic “question mark,” I said “question mark” also, because I don’t have the answers, Father. But I feel there is need for this witnessing that you say. For example, I feel that Father Blanco is doing very great work in Tondo, precisely because he has decided to live with the poor, and to belong to them. The people find him very believable and very relevant, and it would seem to me that a number of parishes, maybe in strategic areas, close to them.


Father General: May I ask now, with your permission, Your Excellency, if somebody would like to comment on this point? How do you see the necessity for the Society of Jesus to be more in contact with the grassroots? What would you advise us to do, in the concrete, in this direction?


Armando Baltazar: I really would like to see the Jesuits, Father, working not only through the Ateneos, but perhaps working through agencies which are in closer touch with the grassroots. You have the Institute of Social Order, for example, giving courses on rural development for people who will work in the rural areas, and yet their base of operations is entirely in Manila.


We have terrific expertise among the Jesuits. This expertise I think the Jesuits should share with agencies which are also in the educational field and touching the rural masses directly. So that instead of the Jesuits thinking to do the work of education themselves, I think they should realize there are other agencies, ready to enrich whatever they have to teach with the agency’s own experience. And therefore, I think the Society could well multiply its effectiveness by working through these agencies, lending these agencies their expertise and enriching these programs.


Father General: One question. Do you think these agencies are ready to accept the Jesuits in collaboration with them?


Mr. Baltazar: Speaking for our own organization, PRRM—Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement—we are prepared for this, Father. And I think that there would be others. I had a brain storming session with different agencies and we discussed precisely the need and feasibility of setting up a program, a curriculum for rural development that would be available not only in one or two localities but would be available to many areas, by using agencies that are already in several areas. For instance, you have SEARSOLIN already. Father Masterson, working in Mindanao. However, there might be strengths of SEARSOLIN and perhaps, necessarily, some, I won’t say inadequacies, certain “lacunae” that could well be filled in by other agencies cooperating with SEARSOLIN. So that if SEARSOLIN were to enter into affiliation with other training institutes—then, in Mindanao, you would have a place that would put together various forms of expertise. And the same thing could hold for other areas….




St. Ignatius lived in times very much like ours. They were times of great and rapid changes in the Church, in the world. It was the age of revolt against the Church and reform within the Church. The age of Luther and of Philip Neri. It was the age of exploration, the age of Columbus and Magellan. It was the age of humanism, the age of what one author has called the “rediscovery of the world and of man.” In short, Ignatius lived in an age like ours.


In such an age those who would serve Christ and men must be ready for everything … to be in Europe a papal theologian as Laynez was; or like Campion a hunted priest with a price on his head. Or to be like Xavier in lands beyond the sunrise, a mendicant in India and an Hidalgo in Japan.


What should we be and do for you?

So today we Jesuits are, asking ourselves these questions everywhere and all the time: “Where can we make ourselves most useful? … What service can we render best?”


Here in the Philippines I think that in some things we see clearly what we must do. In other things not so clearly. That is why I am so glad to have this opportunity of meeting with you, our fellow workers for Christ in the Church. For you can help us, and we ask you to help us, to see more clearly how we can be of better service to the people of the Philippines.


But more important than that, perhaps, what we Jesuits must try to be in order to do what we ought to do.


First, what seems to be clear—it seems clear that we Jesuits here in the Philippines especially, must continue to develop what we call the apostolate of participation, the form of service whereby we as priests and religious assist laymen to perform those tasks which are primarily and properly the responsibility of laymen in the Church and in the world.


As the Second Vatican Council teaches us, the building up of the temporal order along Christian lines is above all the task and the responsibility of the laity, because they are the members of Christ’s body who are purely engaged in the temporal order. And of course, in a developing country like the Philippines the building up of the temporal order means first and foremost socio-economic development, the liberation of the people, especially the poor, from institutionalized injustice. In other words, the establishment of a just order of society. In this necessary and urgent task of development and liberation it is you, our co-workers of the laity, who must take the initiative according to those Christian principles of judgment and action which we all share.


Our role as priest, as religious, is and must be a supporting, a participatory one. As far as the scientific technical economic and political aspects of development are concerned, you are obviously in a better position to make decisions than we are. But we can perhaps be of help in the setting of common goals and in the planning, execution and evaluation of priorities.


We must always remember that we priests and religious take part in development work, in the building up of the temporal order, precisely as priests and religious, not at all as laymen. We must contribute to the common work but we must contribute what we are: namely, our character as priests, our charisma as religious. Our contribution must be to build into the development and liberation of peoples the spiritual dimension, the constant realization not only in theory, but in practice, that human development cannot be limited to the temporal order. That to limit human development to the temporal or to the merely secular is to make it less than human.


Keep and Spread your Faith

I would insist on this point, having seen so many countries. So many countries try to develop, and if you see the last analysis, the real evaluation, the results are negative—because to have more transistors and to have more computers and to have the jumbo jets and to have so many machines and so many big cars doesn’t mean that a human being has progressed. Progress in material things—yes—but he loses other more important moral values! And the sum at the end is negative.


So please, you have in the Philippines a tremendous treasure which nobody else has in the Orient! Nobody else in the Orient! You have faith in Christ! You are a people identified with Christ in the human, humble—excuse me—ignorant way that people who are supposed to be scientific … but perhaps more ignorant on this point than you people here … would consider as superstitious. No! In the bottom of the heart of the Filipino people is a treasure which you cannot sell to have instead transistors or computers or automobiles or jumbo planes. You must keep the treasure!


That is the tragedy. I am no authority, but I can warn you from the experience I have had in other countries.


Material advance can be a tremendous temptation to sell the soul! Do not sell your treasure, which is the faith of Christ, in order to advance materially! You are still on time. I am an old man … and I will not come here again perhaps … but I would like to see the Philippines making this fusion of two things which nobody else can do today in the Orient. Nobody else! Because nobody else has the faith of Christ as a people.


You have Japan with three Catholics per thousand (0.3%), you have Indonesia with 3 percent and so forth…. Here, I don’t know, but you are 80 percent, 90 percent. And if you count Christian people, you have practically all. You have this. Therefore your tremendous role in the Orient is this: to prove to humanity that the simple, wonderful people of the Philippines who possess such enormous faith and such a treasure can make the fusion of those two things—the integral, complete development of man which means agriculture, which means literacy, which means industrialism, which means economics; which means politics … with the supernatural values, with the spiritual values. If you succeed in this, you will set up a tremendous example for hundreds of millions of people in the Orient.


I can tell you if you can really do that, after many years you will have the Filipino people happy all along the line!


Working hard to progress materially, but keeping the faith!


Really, with all my heart I would like to have a tremendous loudspeaker here to tell this to the whole Philippines, but I am sure that I have many living, much better loudspeakers here!


You will, in fine English, and in better Tagalog, and in the other dialects, give this idea to others.




Original Source:

Justice with Faith Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—II, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1980, “Dialogue with Co-Workers,” pg. 69–76.

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