“The Puebla Press Conference,” Pedro Arrupe (1979)

The Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) took place in Puebla, outside of Mexico City, in 1979. Among the participants was Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Towards the end of the conference Arrupe answered questions from the previous, a transcript of exchanges appearing below. Arrupe begins with some introductory remarks before answering questions on topics ranging from the circumstances of Jesuit works in El Salvador, general charges of heretical behavior with the Society (charges Arrupe dismisses), and his position on Marxism. An estimated 250 reporters attended the news conference.

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



Introduction: The Society’s Mission

I must begin by asking you to forgive me. So many journalists asked me for statements or interviews that, if I had accepted them all, I would not have been able to take part in the Conference. On the other hand, to accept only a few would risk provoking feelings of discrimination. Nothing could be further from my wish. Still less was I trying to run away from the press. I have the highest regard for its value—as for radio and television—and also for the extremely important service and mission it fulfils by informing public opinion. You in your own way are also “Evangelizers.”


I am very grateful for this opportunity of sharing with you what I personally feel to be God’s will for the Society in its service to the Church and the peoples of Latin America in its various apostolates. And I am especially grateful to CELAM for the facilities provided to make possible this dialogue with so many participants.


We Jesuits—those Jesuits about whom so many stories are told! (laughter)—following our tradition, want to contribute with all our strength to the Evangelization of this Continent, in and with the Church, in and with the people of God. Also, and this is important, in close collaboration with the Holy Father, our supreme leader. As you know, we Jesuits have a vow, the famous fourth vow, to serve the Roman Pontiff, accepting any mission he may wish to give us, without any conditions. St. Ignatius used to call this fourth vow “our principle and main foundation.” We today follow the same path: many exterior things have changed, the Society—according to some critics—seems different, but we are the same Society as always, though adapted as far as possible and necessary to a world where change is so rapid and deep.


Therefore our mission is to serve with total dedication. All that people say: that we are powerful, intriguers, that we have a lot of money… My reply to the last would be that expressive Italian word “magari!” “would it were so!” to be able to serve the Church and the people better. Unfortunately we don’t have it.


The motivation that drives us in this service is evangelical and the methods we employ are also wholly evangelical. No other method is valid since our mission is to evangelize.


I don’t want here to launch into a panegyric of the Society. But permit me to recall, for I think it opportune at this moment, the words that Paul VI addressed to the Society of Jesus in 1974, on the eve of our last General Congregation: “Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the front line of social conflict, there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, there also there have been, and there are, Jesuits.” Allow me to add: and that is where we want to continue to be in the future. This will explain many of our positions, so often misunderstood, in situations of crisis.


Because of this the life of today’s Jesuit is much more difficult than thirty years ago. It calls for a much deeper experience of God, a more solid training. This is the reason for the changes that have taken place in our training and the experiments we are making: we are trying to form men more united with God, and better-prepared intellectually and in experience, in teaching, etc., and not just in the realm of ideas, but also in contact with problems and real situations in the world. Hence the insertion of many of our communities in challenging environments. The Jesuit house is not a fortress which one leaves in order to work, but a live center in close contact with society and people so as to understand better their problems, experience directly their poverty, feel for oneself what is justice or the lack of it, know what are the daily difficulties of a family. So we are opening up our houses and pitching ourselves into the world. It is a greater challenge than in past eras, and it calls for deeper and more evangelic preparation and a more intense love for Christ.


But also the opportunities are greater and this justifies our optimism—they always say I am an optimist—because we firmly believe that God is with us. Relying on him we accept the risks, which are greater, because the opportunities and chances for service are also greater.


Of course, all this is the ideal we would like to reach. In pursuing it we have to admit—though this contradicts our reputation for pride—that we make many mistakes, and that, even with the best will, not all the experiments have had the desired result. But of one thing we are certain: our willingness, our faith, our constancy. Our mistakes are proof of our human condition and of our acknowledged weakness. The impression of self-sufficiency, of knowing everything, that people sometimes accuse us of —and perhaps we ourselves give some cause for this—belongs to the past. I believe, or at least I hope, that Jesuits today are very realistic, that they have a clear understanding of their own defects and of the distance between their ideal and the results they achieve.


Here I end my introduction. I believe there are nine or ten questions in writing which will be presented by their authors, I will reply to them as far as I can, asking your pardon if I sometimes speak at a little length, because they are questions that go to the heart of important matters. And the time we have is also limited. Then at the end, if this is possible, you are free to ask any questions you wish. (applause)



1. Jesuits in El Salvador

Question: A Bishop from El Salvador has said that the Jesuits are responsible for, the violence in that country, thus associating himself with the accusations and threats the Society of Jesus has received from the Salvadorian Government. What do you think of these accusations and what is the policy of the Society of Jesus concerning them? (Jorge Gómez Maldonado, del Circuito de Emisoras ‘Todelar,’ de Colombia).


Arrupe: These accusations don’t come from one person only but many. They are so serious that I cannot accept them. I have followed the situation very closely, much more so since the death of Fr. Rutilio when the Jesuits were threatened with being expelled and even killed, if they did not leave the country, before the month of July last year. I ordered them to remain. The Society of Jesus is not going to yield to a threat. (applause) If we did, we would be lost. And so they carry on there. And although I am following the situation very closely, to guard against any possibility of error or misunderstanding, I called the Provincial of Central America, Fr. César Jerez, who has been here since the day before yesterday. We have had long conversations, and I am more and more convinced that our fathers are really working to defend justice, to try and remedy a situation that is unjust. And therefore they are working according to the Gospel.


All of us Jesuits, in El Salvador and elsewhere, are against violence, and in this sense we are following the example of the hierarchy and the Bishops in working for those peasants and other deprived people who are really suffering very much. So I can say that the Jesuits in El Salvador—as elsewhere—are trying to follow the ideas of the II Vatican Council—deepen them and apply them to their work. Medellin and the Society are in a post-Vatican II situation. We have had two General Congregations. In both we were concerned mainly with evangelization, but putting the accent on service, the service of faith and the promotion of justice. Before arriving at this decision, I addressed the Jesuits present in the Congregation in the following words: “Before committing ourselves, let us think well: because we are going to meet with many problems from our friends and from others less friendly.” To defend justice in the world is really to proclaim a sign of contradiction, and this can lead, as it has with us, to consequences like the following: seven dead in Rhodesia, four in Beirut, expulsion some time ago from Iraq, loss of all we had in Mozambique, etc., etc. When they ask me: “Father, where does the Society of Jesus have problems?” I usually reply: “Ask me where it doesn’t have any.”


So, as I said before and now repeat, there have certainly been restrictions in El Salvador; there have also certainly been mistakes; we could mention them. There are others who have made mistakes and are no longer in the Society because they have insisted on continuing them. The Society of Jesus cannot allow anybody to continue deliberately in a wrong position or to act in ways we cannot accept. So I believe, while recognizing and regretting the problems, mistakes and imprudent actions that have occurred, it cannot be said that we Jesuits are responsible for the present situation in El Salvador.


2. Horizontalism

Question: Fr. Arrupe: Whenever commitment to social problems is mentioned, there are some Bishops who talk of horizontalism: as if there was a contradiction between love of neighbor and love of God. Why is this so, in your opinion? (Geogrio Donato, Italian Television, First Program)


Arrupe: I would say that you should ask directly those Bishops you mention. But we can understand what they mean when they talk in this way—as I myself have sometimes done. There is always an ambiguity when one tries to apply geometry to spiritual matters. (laughter) The faith has many dimensions, many aspects, many ways of expressing itself. Faith is called on to resolve many different types of problems. There is a danger that someone who wants to work in the world, with the poor or rich, to evangelize them, gets so involved in his immediate field of action that he loses sight a little of the supernatural or transcendent and, by his activity, gives an impression of that horizontalism to which the question refers.


This is certainly a danger, a very great danger. Though often it is merely a matter of emphasis which gives rise to wrong interpretations, it can also happy that a person becomes so horizontal that all verticality is lost. In other words, the spirit is lost and the apostle becomes a social activist. We cannot allow this. Obviously a social activist can have faith. But here, I am talking about a priest activist who devotes all his efforts to horizontal, human and temporal action.


However I think that, though there have been and still are some exaggerations of this sort, the tide has now turned. Some, lacking not in good will, but in their assessment and understanding of reality, and using a false strategy, believed that direct involvement with the most material aspects was the most effective way to work for social justice and help the poor. Experience, and the negative or very limited results they naturally achieved, have helped such well-intentioned people to take a second look. Today many of them have come round; that is, they recognize that our work as priests—and in some ways much more as Jesuits—is above all priestly and spiritual: and that this spiritual and supernatural dimension can never be missing. This combination of the supernatural and the reality of daily life is a symbiosis that has to be preserved. It will be difficult. This is the reason why, as I said at the start, we need to give a solid training to our Jesuits.


There is no doubt that when somebody gets involved in such difficult situations—situations of injustice, situations of oppression, etc.—he identifies emotionally with the people, the poor and those who are suffering. And in identifying, it is easy for attitudes to become polarized in such a way that one overlooks the gospel criterion. Seduced by outward signs of effectiveness, one tries to insist more on merely political, or merely economic means which are not proper to our type of work. We can use them but only when illuminated by faith.


But there is also the other danger: that of idealism or a disincarnate spiritualism which, with the best will in the world, devotes itself simply to prayer and religious services, perhaps completely forgetting the real, material and human side of this world. Man is formed of flesh and bones, even though he is inspired by the spirit; and serious material problems exist. One can therefore fall into either of two extremes: that is (to use the terminology of the question) either a horizontalism conceived as total identification which forgets the spiritual dimensions, or a verticalism directed exclusively towards the spiritual dimension which forgets the urgent material needs of today’s world. The truth lies in a synthesis. It is difficult, but this is what we are aiming at; and I believe the whole Catholic Church is working to the same end.


3. Religious in Latin America

Question: Fr. Arrupe: What is really the role of Religious in the Conference of Puebla and how far are their experiences, especially as pioneers, being considered- bearing in mind that is was precisely Religious who first evangelized Latin America and still constitute today the majority of the Clergy? (Angelo Montonati, magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Italy)


Arrupe: Many thanks for this question which gives me the opportunity—as President of the Union of Superiors General—of taking up an interesting subject. In the Puebla Meeting we religious are very well represented, at least in number. Perhaps like the one here present, not all are of the best quality. (laughter) But we are grateful that so many religious are taking part. For example, five members of the Board of the Union of Superiors General are present. In almost all of the 21 Commissions there is a religious, counting not only members by right—Bishops or those invited—but also experts, etc. And the collaboration of these religious is also considerable. But this is not an unjustified preponderance of religious: I think there are some 180,000 working in Latin America. Their experience in apostolates of insertion, education, human relations, etc., is both interesting and vast. In some dioceses the majority of the priests are religious. Our presence here is a desire to make these experiences available. We know that we do riot have the final word: we come only to present and offer our ideas. The final answer, the approval of the documents and possible amendments, is reserved to those who have the right to vote. We, as is normal, only have the right to speak.


Thinking of the life of religious today, I would insist on the great example that sisters give us male religious. Looking at all the changes in Latin America concerning evangelization, catechesis, social questions, relief of poverty, evangelization of indigenous peoples, etc., the religious sisters give us a magnificent example of detachment, gentleness and humility. For this I believe the Church acknowledges and appreciates them increasingly. That old image of the “pious little sister” has gone, and they are accepted as persons of great worth. Not only spiritual worth, for the sacrifice they make in leaving everything and coming to live so austere and difficult a life, but also personal worth. With the training that many sisters have today and which is continually being improved, they are the most effective instruments for evangelization. I think I have some experience in this matter. In Rome, as you know, we have the Union of Superiors General—225 men in the whole world—and all belong to it. But we men are no more than 10% of the sisters whose Superiors General are more than 2,500. There are almost a million sisters in the world. This is a tremendous power for evangelization.


What I said before about Jesuits also applies to other religious, men and women: we are much aware of our limitations, but we are also aware—especially those of us in positions of responsibility—of the human and spiritual worth, the total dedication of these people and the value of their work, often hidden. You, men of the press and of publicity, will forgive me when I stress that what is most valuable in religious life is this hidden element, the person who works in the bush, who toils without headlines, without making declarations… Well, there are others too! (laughter) It is a wonderful thing! As General of the Society of Jesus, I have to visit all these places and I see all this hidden work; often without writing either to Provincial or to General; they just work and work. And the world is unaware of this tremendous ferment which is active in Latin America in such an extraordinary way. It is important that we take note of it.


Let us take witness. Today everybody is convinced that the great force of the Gospel does not come from mass movements. Obviously, these have their place, but first and foremost comes personal witness. For me, as I said in Montreal at the International Conference of Religious where there were religious from North and South America, our specific task is to give so transparent a witness that it can only be explained by faith. This is our strength. Not sociology, not economics, not chemistry or physics. What is required is personal witness that has credibility. The problem lies in the credibility. At times we lack credibility, possibly because we do not give the witness we should. Consequently, what we have to correct is our life, our being. Not what we do, our action; but what we are our being. This is why we are told that what matters for man’s development is to be more, not to have more. We can also say in this respect: what is important is not to do more, but to be more. Afterwards this being more will show itself in external activity: in education or any other type of work.


I think it is important that we become aware of this. I hope the document—if there is to be one—on consecrated life, that emerges from our meeting will emphasize this point: As far as I know, religious in Latin America are prepared to carry on this hidden work of sacrifice which is so powerful a force for evangelization.


4. Heresy

Question: Fr. Arrupe: what have you done and what are you doing as General of the Society of Jesus to correct, admonish, punish or simply denounce those Jesuit who, in public and open rebellion against the Magisterium and authority of the Pope, spread and defend doctrines and teachings completely opposed to those laid down in Dogma, Revelation and the Magisterium, such as praise of violence as a means for social liberation, (Gustavo Gutiérrez, Luis del Valle, Gonzalo Arroyo), the promotion of Marxist socialism as an instrument for socio-political redemption, (laughter, hissing, interruption). With its consequent dialectic of class struggle and the setting up of a totalitarian regime that it brings; the conversion of a “Popular Church” allied with “the poor” and in rebellion against the directives of the Hierarchy which is accused of being “in league with the bourgeois power structures”; the mockery and public discredit by Jesuit priests of the holy vows and priestly virtues: poverty, chastity, and obedience (Porfirio Miranda, Enrique Maza, Felipe Pardinas, Salvador Freixedo)l the total adulteration of the Gospel, now reconstructed form a materialist analysis based on the dialectic of Karl Marx and Frederic Engels, according to the thesis of Porfirio Miranda who affirms in his books Marx and the Bible that Marx rediscovered the Bible… I repeat to you as Superior of a great religious Order with such a honorable history in the Church, my total and unconditional fidelity (laughter, hissings) to the Holy Father and the Church’s Magisterium. This is a responsibility we will one day have to account for to God, you, I, and all men. (laughter(Victor Manuel Sánchez Steinpreis, “Radioprogramas”, Mexico).


Arrupe: Many thanks, Señor Sánchez, because you really oblige me to examine my conscience deeply (laughter) in asking a question which adds up to: Are you carrying out your function of General of the Society of Jesus or are you responsible for so serious an omission that that Society of Jesus with such a brilliant past has today a present—and probably a future—that is heretical?


I don’t know how to start this examination. I feel, Sr. Sánchez, that you are badly informed or have interpreted things wrongly. And you are not the only one to do this; There are many others who accuse us of all you have said. For this reason I am very grateful for this question since it gives me the opportunity of perhaps correcting a little some of these wrong interpretations.


First of all, I recognize that I am General of the Society of Jesus. I was elected on May 22nd, 1976, and I often say it must have been a distraction of the Holy Spirit which allowed me to be elected. But, now that I am elected, I try to do my job as best as possible. When, as General, I see there has been some error or imprudence, normally I call attention to it either directly myself, or through means of the local Provincial. Jesuits have been accused a lot and normally the accusations are very general: “The fathers of this University are teaching heretical doctrine.” “Where is that heresy written?” And they don’t reply because it doesn’t exist. Or there could be a wrong understanding of words imprudently used…. In short, I can deny absolutely and without hesitation that in the Society today any heretical doctrine is being upheld. I could not admit this for it weighs on my conscience (long applause).


Secondly, with respect to the four names you mention, three are not Jesuits. (laughter) They were, but they are no longer.


Thirdly, the social question. The Society of Jesus can never accept any ideology which defends or is based on atheism. We cannot align ourselves with such thought. Perhaps, and this is very different, something that certain elements of Marxist analysis can be validly used to examine society. This does not mean a defense of Marxist ideology; rather, the study of certain positive elements contained in other ideologies or other religions. This is admitted by the Synod itself and Vatican II when they speak of the “semina Verbi,” that is, valid elements contained in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or other religions. We need to study these elements as a point of departure for a constructive dialogue with other religions and ideologies.


Tell me, so that I can take immediate action, who is the Jesuit that defends violence, that defends Marxism as an ideology, that defends and propagates class struggle? The day you tell me that, I will have cause to speak with him and see what he has said. So for the moment let us leave this point there. (applauses)


I believe that each man is a mystery. To judge others is the last thing I do. That is for God. When a person has his reasons and believes he should leave the Society, he leaves. I presume he is in good faith and has thought about the matter. I respect him. But from the moment he leaves the Society, I no longer have any authority over him.


Another point,—and this is also very serious—is what you tell me about the vows. Well, really! If we discipline ourselves by poverty, chastity and obedience, and … how did you put it? “the mockery and public discredit by Jesuit priests of the holy vows and priestly virtues…” Well! Forgive me, but I do not accept this. If a Jesuit makes a mistake, it is brought to his notice—not through a newspaper, a review or the television; but personally, in a father to son relationship an attempt is made to discuss with him so as to see what there is to condemn or correct.


What more? What was the other? (laughter)


Ah! the parallel meetings of the Jesuits. Look, so that all can know. Here in Puebla there are at the moment some 120 or 125 Jesuits. We all met together the other day in the College and I can tell you that for me this was the happiest moment of the days I have spent here. I saw 120 men absolutely dedicated to the Church and who said one after another: we are here to see how we can help the Church, how we can serve the Bishops … Because among them there were theologians, sociologists, and so on. And many were journalists. They are all here today. There is no parallel Puebla, far from it. They are all at the service of the Church. I know there are many Bishops who are consulting them and I too consult them. Very well! This is another stigma people are trying to attach to us which, I believe, has no foundation. They are here precisely because I have asked them to come, so that after Puebla the Society of Jesus can co-operate with the Bishops. To do this, it is good they are here and see how the documents are being prepared, how they should be interpreted. Afterwards I will be able to rely on their advice and study, and we will be able to work all together, united and more effective, in the service of the Church in Latin America. (long applause)


That is all, Sr. Sánchez. I think it is enough. It is really a little unpleasant…. I am grateful for your sincerity. But it is painful for me to listen to such unacceptable accusations about my brothers. (applauses)


5. Violence

Question: The Church traditionally admits that violence in the form of taking up arms can be a lesser evil (although only in exceptional circumstances and under certain conditions) in a situation of extreme oppression. Do you believe there are countries in Latin America that are in such a situation? (Jose Ramon Ceschi, Radio Rosario network, Argentina).


Arrupe: I see that you are familiar with Christian moral teaching on this point and you will know that there has been a certain development since the theologians of the 17th and 18th centuries until now, and that Vatican II, especially in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes tells us that the use of violence and arms is legitimate in exceptional cases, very exceptional. What can one deduce from this teaching of the Church?


1) The Christian is a man of peace. He is not a pacifist through cowardice, but a pacifist through love. The Christian is ready or should be ready to be a martyr, but he is still a pacifist.


2) It is important to recognize that peace is possible; or in other words, that violence and war are not inevitable. It is possible to disarm hands and hearts.


3) Peace is never something made and established once for all, but rather a task and challenge that has to be faced day by day. Peace is the result of justice: the justice of equity in the distribution of goods and opportunities to all peoples; and also the justice of the heart which learns to respect the dignity of others seeing them as one’s own brothers and sons of God. Justice which stems from love goes much further than justice alone.


4) The fourth point that needs clarification is that there is an obligation to avoid armed violence, using every means at all levels. For this reason it is necessary to oppose with equal determination the causes; namely, those situations of injustice which are described by Medellin as a certain form of institutionalized violence.


5) It is true that a revolutionary uprising can be legitimate as Paul VI said in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio: “where there is manifest, long-standing tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights” (and these are the words of the Holy Father, not of that revolutionary Fr. Arrupe), (laughter) “and dangerous harm to the common good of the country.”  This was also said by Medellin in the Document on Peace, no. 19. But it is nonetheless certain, not only on evangelical or ecclesiastical grounds, but also through experience itself, that violence produces new and worse forms of violence. This is obvious and can be shown both from the nature of the case and from the evidence of history.


Replying now to the question: in view of these statements, it is obvious that I am against violence. I don’t see how violent means can be positive. Recent experience confirms how inhuman and little productive have been incidents of armed violence. But if there should exist in any country of Latin America (I am speaking in the conditional: “if there should exist”) that exceptional situation to which Paul VI refers, those who think of using violence against another greater violence place on their consciences a most serious responsibility for which they will have to give an account to God, to men and to the history of their own peoples. This is a very delicate point and that is why I have written it out because I did not want to improvise or say anything more or anything less than I have. The Holy Father and Medellin recognize that such situations could exist. But to discern and take the responsibility for deciding that a particular situation require violence … this is a matter of one’s conscience.


And it is always something exceptional. There are certainly very serious problems which neither I nor anyone else outside the country can judge accurately. And so, in reply to the question, I think that if someone does believe that a country has reached this exceptional situation, then it is the inhabitants of that country itself, the hierarchy, the Catholics, the laity, who should think and reflect on their situation and thus, in conscience, accept this responsibility.


6. Social Communications Media

Question: What projects does the Society of Jesus have in its pastoral work with social communications media, especially in Latin America? (Juan Manuel Galaviz, Magazine Familia Cristiana, Mexico).


Arrupe: Speaking to people like you, professional in social communication, I don’t need to stress the importance this has nor the responsibility it brings. The Society is becoming increasingly aware of this in its task of evangelization. It is something which is spreading little by little. The methods are new, the circumstances different, a highly specialized personnel is required, and all this naturally makes the process a slow one. But, as you know well, the Society has considered the means of social communication one of its apostolic priorities and we are much concerned about doing something in their regard.


First, there has always been a tradition in the Society, which, as far back as the 16th and 17th centuries, employed the theatre, rhetoric, music, and art as means for education. The aim was to produce the “humanist.” Today, living in the age of the image, it is natural that we should have to change many methods of education and use means which produce a new man capable of working with others in this new world. Therefore we are trying hard to introduce into our training a knowledge of the means of social communication, especially radio and television, etc., and also how to write in periodicals, reviews, etc., because we believe it is absolutely necessary to meet the needs of today. In this aspect, one of the countries which is moving ahead fastest is India which has set up a commission to study within the space of two years, how to introduce these factors into the normal training of all Jesuits.


The number of Jesuits who are working today in the communications media is growing, and this is true not only for those means for which the Church or the Society is directly responsible, but also in the public sectors of television, radio, etc. And this is true not only in Latin America, but throughout the world: in Germany, France, the United States … in practically every country there are some Jesuits in communication centers that belong neither to the Church nor to the Society. Here also, in Latin America, we try to do something although unfortunately it cannot be much because it calls for so much training. But there has been a considerable development in this field. Eight or ten years ago there were only a handful of Jesuits doing this sort of work, pioneers without much training, but very keen and who wanted to do something. Many were improvisers. They achieved much, opening up a path which the Society now is following. But it is still not sufficient. We need people especially trained and with sufficient technical knowledge. This takes time.


For this reason another line we are pursuing is research in social communications media. They are instruments that have been developed a little at random without much thought. Thought is needed because the social intellectual and spiritual power that the media have requires that we try to use them with the greatest possible effect and responsibility. We are setting up various centers, the most active of which is in London, to pursue this type of research. This will also have effect in Latin America.


Finally, as you know, in Latin America we have several radio stations; and we work in television. This is very difficult especially when government controls the radio or television and one cannot say what one wants. At times, permits are not granted and this work is impossible. Because of this we are also trying to work with the “mini-media,” slides and.16 mm. films, in order to provide material for study groups, discussion groups, etc. These are small groups from 20 to 30 people who are able to acquire a cine projector. This is valuable because it does on a small scale what the mass media do on a much larger one. It comes home to people much more and is a means of education well adapted to the needs of today.


7. Invitation to Puebla: Women

Question: According to a letter published a few days ago in “Uno mas Uno,” which was supposedly sent by Msgr. López Trujillo, an attempt was made to keep you out of the Conference of Latin American Bishops. It was also rumored that having been invited, you had to seek out the preparatory documents yourself since they were not sent to you. I ask this question to give you an opportunity to explain what happened or what you know happened. Also a second question: I would like to know your reaction to the group of women who are meeting outside the Seminary in the hope that their voices will reach this Assembly. They are asking that the Church denounce all discrimination against women and with strong voice approve the struggle for the equality of the woman both in society and in the Church. (Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Catholic Connection, Alexandria, Virginia, USA).


Arrupe: Many thanks for these two questions which are, each in its own way, very interesting. The first is very simple: I am in Puebla because Cardinal Baggio wrote me a letter inviting me to come. I know nothing more. I know nothing about the background to the letter. I am here, I get along well with Msgr. López Trujillo, with great cordiality, and I have nothing else to add.


Only part of the documents came to me, not all, but this happened to many because of mail services. There was certainly no one trying to deprive me of documents. They arrived regularly, some through Cardinal Baggio, others directly from CELAM. You will forgive me when I say I find nothing in the hints that you are making. I am very happy and grateful because there was no obligation to invite me. But they did, and I consider it a great opportunity because the Society of Jesus has many responsibilities in its work in Latin America.


Your second question is concerned with the role of the woman today in the world and in the Church. I believe this to be a problem that calls for much study and research. There is a theological principle: the woman is an image of God just as much as man and, in consequence, their personal rights are equal. However, perhaps because of past cultural influences, women have not received due recognition. This has led to the famous Women’s LIB Movement which is justifiably trying to defend the rights of women.


But I don’t think that it should be waved like a banner, as a way of recovering rights in a somewhat violent or perhaps imprudent manner. I think that, as in everything, movements that innovate pay for their novelty. In other words, things are not clear at the start, there’s a difference of opinion within the feminist movement, etc. It is a very delicate moment, especially if one is dealing as well with questions inside the Church itself. I think that the role of woman in the Church can be developed much more, and that there is room for much more participation; and from what I have seen in Rome, and here too, I think that the Church realizes this and is seeking evolution in that sense. I come back to what I said before about religious women—granted that they are not laywomen and may be Señora María Isasi-Díaz has these in mind, rather … she signals that it is to both … In this case I can affirm that the Church is very much aware of the problem. And, as I have already said, I can affirm this because I am in regular contact with the secretariat of these 2,500 Superiors General of women.


The worth of these women religious—I have seen it—is extraordinary. But as they have structures developed over many years, any changes, and the way they are brought about, etc., involve a slow process. Institutions change gradually. We see for example in Rome that in the Congregation of Religious, women religious are working in an official capacity. They study many problems alongside men religious. And the specific problems that concern women religious are studied by them. And so, if I might be allowed to offer some advice, I would say that, conscious as we are of the opportunity and the necessity of solving this problem, it should be done with prudence, with human understanding, in the way that one would approach a difficult problem, a very emotional one perhaps, so that one must keep a clear head and a cool mind in order to be able to think and reflect better. I say this because, not in Latin America, but certainly in other countries, unpleasant things have happened: protests, things—pardon me Doña Ada María—not very graceful and which have brought down the high idea that we all have of woman. Here as in so many other cases, eagerness, circumstances, excitement, all these can bring about difficult situations. But it has to be granted all the same that there ought to be a greater recognition of the rights of women.


8. Jesuits in Latin America

Question: How do you judge the socio-political situation and the pastoral reality in Latin America over the past ten years? What, in your opinion, should the priority options be for the Church in Latin America which it should carry through today in the light of the experiences, often dramatic, of the Society of Jesus and also in the light of the work carried out by the Conference at Puebla? (Silvio Stracca and Giovanni Spinoso, Diario “Avvenire,” Roma).


Arrupe: Many thanks for the question, which touches an important point. To start with the question about the situation, I think that three points can be distinguished: the socio-political situation and its evolution, the evolution of the pastoral situation, and the direction of priorities with regard to future needs. It is a basic question and for that reason I think that the reply must be more precise.


The political situation, as I say, presents more or less the same problem that occurred at the time of Medellin. In some points there have certainly been important changes, as you yourselves are more aware than I am.


The pastoral orientation resulting from Medellin has been very fruitful, for example in catechetics which has been much improved both as regards content and method. In fact the change that has taken place in catechetics is notable. Another important field is that of popular religion, which ten years ago was looked on as superstition without much value but today is considered as a theological subject, an area of great importance for study and reflection in connection with what is possible for genuine Evangelization. As a result we see today profound and interesting studies on anthropology, theology, history, sociology, in so far as they are related to popular religion. We Jesuits can bring to this study the experiences which our Fathers have had in Paraguay and other regions in Latin America. These are most interesting and have left their imprint on various cultures. For that reason we need to study popular religion, namely, the faith as expressed in the culture of a people.


The Church has made a great advance in this respect. There are now some anthropological centers; we have several, some in Peru, others in Colombia, etc. Father Melía is working at present among the tribes in Brazil—surely a very interesting development, that?


The increased number of vocations is another sign of pastoral vitality following on Medellin. This is notable in Latin America: I’m speaking as a Jesuit because I know our own numbers, but I hear the same story from other generals and provincials. Here in Mexico we have 25 novices, in Argentina another 20, more than 30 in Colombia, and the Provincial in another country wrote to me, saying: “Father, in letting you know that this year we have received about 20 novices do not think that I have forgotten the warning of St. Ignatius that he did not want a mob in the Society.” All this results from contact with the people and from the witness of the Society, like that that of Father Rutilio—there are 20 novices in Central America.


It is noteworthy that it is more difficult to introduce the changes of the Council among “traditional families,” that is to say, in those which have position and influence, etc. At times such families resist quite strongly the change of attitude and mentality demanded by the Second Vatican Council.


What are the priority needs for the future? Much could be said on the subject but I only wish to underline two points:


One is that evangelization should reach the greatest number possible. We are not concerned with an elite, but with the mass of people in all walks of life. So much for the extension, but we must work as well to secure a greater interior intensity in our sense of the faith and in the application or incarnation of the faith among different peoples, and this on both personal and community levels.


In the second place: together with a deeper planting of the Gospel of Christ in Latin America, we must take decisive steps forward in human development and the creation of the kind of society that is desired. When that is achieved, a most interesting point—at least for me, I do not know about yourselves—is that Latin America, counting as it does more than 40% of the Catholics of the world, expresses a great hope and a great responsibility: that of being the evangelist of the world. (murmurs) Excuse me speaking like this, but I am personally very conscious of the fact. At times Latin America, with all its complexus of problems, is in danger of being somewhat introverted, of thinking only of itself. Let us not forget that we must be open to the world, and that the way to solve national problems is to think in a wider context and to form outstanding men, who are capable of making contact with other cultures. I think that point needs to be stressed very much. (applause) In all sincerity I am not looking for applause but trying to explain a little what I feel. I said the same a few days ago to a meeting of Jesuits. The potentiality of Latin America! You do not take it sufficiently into account!


The visit of the Holy Father was for me an extraordinary event: it showed the real spirit of the Mexican people, that is to say, a profoundly Christian people, a sensitive people … Good! You have this immense capital of faith and religious experience to pass on to others. I come from Japan, where there are only 3 Catholics in a thousand. But here on the contrary you have such immense resources… ! We speak of economic capitalism. But there is a spiritual capitalism and you are the great capitalists in that sense (laughter), and you have no right to keep your capital here, you must give it to others, investing it in the future and making great profits—gaining such tremendous interest!—through this investment of the faith min other countries. That is why I would like to see a missionary spirit in Latin America, generous and universal in offering the reserves that you have. And if anyone because of ignorance of the Latin American people underestimates them in this, it is a great mistake. No, no! There is a vast capital here which is worth more than all the philosophical disquisitions of other countries. Have no doubt about it. I think you have to take this seriously into account in order to do the work that the Lord is calling for: by the end of this century you will number more than half the Catholics of the world. (applause)


Enough, it is a quarter past two. Some of you are tired by now. I see you moving in your seats …


9. The Documents of Puebla

Question: How do the Documents of the Conference meet the real needs of Latin America with regard to the social aspect? (P. Jorge Uribe, Cadena Caracol, Colombia).


Arrupe: It is difficult to respond to this question as the documents are not yet available. But with regard to the documents which are being prepared, I think that the Conference of Puebla is very much aware of the problem. In the documents under preparation, one of the most important aspects being treated is the social one. I am certain that an effort will be made to produce documents of the kind that the Latin-American episcopate believes necessary. On this point you may rest assured: the Bishops are working in a way that shows they are very conscious of the problems involved. But you will appreciate this on the night of the 13th, when everything has been approved and published. The documents are now at the third stage; and there is still one to come.


10. Marxism

Question: Fr. Arrupe: In the last synod you made an intervention about Marxism which received very favorable comment. You said that Evangelization today cannot prescind from this phenomenon which is so widespread in the world; that on the contrary it must be confronted in order to have a more authentic and efficacious Evangelization. The Conference of Puebla is dealing with the Evangelization of the Latin America of the future. How has it confronted the Marxist phenomenon, and what position have you taken in that respect?


Arrupe: I did not have the opportunity to speak on this theme in the Conference because it was dealt with in the Commission on Education. But I think that my position would have been exactly the same as that I held at the Synod. What I said there is what I think ought to be. Of that I am very convinced. There is no change here.


With regard to the documents, I cannot say, as I have not seen them; they have not been completed. I do not know what position the Conference will adopt with regard to this question. I do not know if you are familiar with the long intervention, of four or five pages, which I made on the point in Rome. At the time, the context was catechetics. My thesis was that we cannot prescind from this worldwide phenomenon of Marxist ideology, which is also quite strong in Latin America.


Consequently, we need to instruct people so that we can present in an objective and scientific way the position of the Church on the question. There are a great number of documents on the subject, of the Holy Father, of different Episcopal Conferences, etc. We must come to know them, expound them and follow them, with clear thinking on the one hand, but with a great charity too. For we are not concerned with an armed struggle but rather with a theological and sociological confrontation which will help us to solve problems so very complex as social questions are in fact.


With that, I think we can end, for we have been going for an hour and a quarter. (applause)




Original Source:

Justice with Faith Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—II, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1980, “The Jesuits in Latin America,” pg. 283–305.