One month after he had sent a letter to entire Society of Jesus on the topic in 1978, Pedro Arrupe sent the following letter to the members of the Indian Assistancy. The Jesuit Conference of India (comprising Jesuit works in India and Sri Lanka) had recently published a report by its Commission on Inculturation. “Inculturation,” Arrupe notes, “represents for us the dynamic aspect of the Incarnation and hence is intimately bound up with evangelization. It is a process by which our experience of Christ so liberates us to be truly ourselves that in our lives there is no ‘split between Culture and Gospel.’” When it comes to “combining deepest insertion and identification with your culture in order to enlighten it with the wisdom of Christ” and communicating that message, Arrupe believes that “India can contribute much to the world of today, but to carry out this rule she has to be open. Please take care lest the fervor for local inculturation degenerates into a pernicious regionalism which together with isolationism thwarts the growth-process necessary in the world of today.”
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Dear Fathers and Brothers in Christ: P. C.
I was indeed very happy to receive the “Conclusions of the Jesuit Conference of India on the Report of the Commission on Inculturation.” It is the fruit of hard and sustained work undertaken for over two years by the Inculturation Commission set up by the Major Superiors of India and Sri Lanka after the first meeting of the Formatores in October 1975. The meeting of the Jesuit Conference of India held in March this year was the culmination of a process that involved the whole Assistancy. The several meetings which the members of the Inculturation Commission had with you individually and in groups helped clarify issues, suggest new solutions and chalk out a whole program of action, as reflected in the interim report and in the final recommendations of the Commission. The members of the Commission deserve our gratitude and congratulations for having brought this difficult task to successful completion. This is the biggest effort made in any Assistancy in the Society to implement decree 5 of the 32nd GC “on Promoting the Work of Inculturation of Faith and Christian Life.” The Whole Society, therefore, will look towards you for the next few years to see the working and fruits of your program. Remember the great influence of India in antiquity. May your example and achievements be an inspiration and guide for all of us!
Your Major Superiors have selected some key areas which, being more fundamental, would need greater attention. I wish, that all the Jesuits of the Assistancy and more especially those engaged in Formation cooperate with the Major Superiors in the implementation of the tasks outlined in the Conclusions. The fact that they have identified not only areas, but also the persons responsible for the programs in those areas, is an indication of their determination to see them through. You are ready to accept the challenge; you are aware of the difficulties and risks involved; you are refreshingly lucid and realistic about your undertaking.
The very concreteness of the recommendations could turn into a mirage if it is not kept in mind that they deal mostly with externals, and may not necessarily produce the fruits desired unless you have the spirit and the attitudes which should animate their implementation. All of you Fathers and Brothers—not only the Formators and those in formation—need to develop these attitudes, and accept in the right spirit the recommendations made concerning lifestyle and other points pertaining to the apostolate. This will mean for many a great sacrifice, but the service of the Church and of the great people of India and Sri Lanka demands this of you. Our young men in formation need to find in the formed houses a suitable and congenial atmosphere to grow into the Jesuit of tomorrow that we desire. I have elaborated on these attitudes in my letter on “Inculturation,” and I would ask you to reflect on them. Here I shall point out some of them which seem to me of particular importance in the context of India and Sri Lanka.
Inculturation represents for us the dynamic aspect of the Incarnation and hence is intimately bound up with evangelization. It is a process by which our experience of Christ so liberates us to be truly ourselves that in our lives there is no “split between Culture and Gospel” and that as a “new creation” we can perform the duty which the Holy Father proposes to us “of proclaiming the liberation of human beings, and of assisting the birth of this liberation, of giving witness to it, of ensuring that it is complete.” That will be the foundation of the real “Indian incarnation” of the charism of St. Ignatius.
You can now understand why I insist in my letter on docility to the Spirit of God in prayer, Ignatian indifference and discernment, and interior openness, persevering patience, “discreta caritas” which combines daring and prudence, and above all an ecclesial sense. Among these I would recommend in a special way interior openness, apostolic daring and a keen ecclesial sense. Your countries are characterized by a variety of cultures even in the same country, whose multi-colored beauty has at times been enhanced, but often marred, by a history of cultural dominations. A whole new generation of youth is rising, avid for progress and eager to take their due place in life, in company with the youth of the world. That is why the task you have undertaken is not only challenging but also delicate. There is need for mutual respect, “collaboration in reconciliation” towards the building up of the present and the future, with no prejudices, no suspicions, no limits to the power and action of the Spirit. This interior openness will also help you to integrate into the body of the Society ever more deeply, because you will bring to the apostolic effort of the Society a new inspiration, a fresh manifestation of the Spirit.
I have referred also to the need of a keen sense of the Church. You have some Christian communities dating from the beginning of the Christian era, others just a few years old, some in urban and industrial areas, others in rural and tribal territories, dispersed among different religious and social groups. The Christian experience of all these communities are at different levels, and so their apostolic needs too. While we avoid the two extremes of an unenlightened zeal and pride on the one hand, and paralyzing pusillanimity on the other, we shall always remember that the ultimate responsibility for directing the work of inculturation rests with the Hierarchy and so shall carry out our programs in a sentiment of genuine love for the Church, the “Spouse of Christ,” submitting our activities to the directives of the Hierarchy.
I would like to insist on the need of combining deepest insertion and identification with your culture in order to enlighten it with the wisdom of Christ, with the openness to the rest of the world with a true catholic, universal spirit which knows to assimilate genuine values of other cultures, and is ready to communicate your own to them. India can contribute much to the world of today, but to carry out this rule she has to be open. Please take care lest the fervor for local inculturation degenerates into a pernicious regionalism which together with isolationism thwarts the growth-process necessary in the world of today.
The Society in India and Sri Lanka can truly be said to be in an exciting era of its growth. As you start implementing the recommendations contained in your document, you will meet with new problems. You will experience tensions to which I referred in my letter to you after Goregaon I. You will need the “apostolic discernment” which will help you to be daring without being imprudent, looking not so much to the past as to the future, to the more lasting than to the immediate good. Others will reap where you have sown. I can only encourage you to go forward with confidence, recalling the words of the Apostle Paul: “I did the planting, Apollo did the watering, but God made things grow.” I assure you all of my prayers.
June 27, 1978
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “On Inculturation,” pg. 181–183.