“Jesuit Scientists Unite,” Pedro Arrupe (1980)

In April 1978, sixteen Jesuit scientists in India, encouraged by Pedro Arrupe’s letter on the Intellectual Apostolate, gathered in Bangalore for a two-day seminar on their work’s significance within the Society of Jesus. At the event, Casimir Gnanadickam, a Jesuit chemist, delivered the keynote address. The meeting led to the establishment of a secretariate for Jesuit scientists, with Joe D’Souza chosen as the secretary and the editor of the quarterly INTERACT. In April 1980, Arrupe sent the following letter to D’Souza in reply to the group’s official report of its objectives and activities for 1979.

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



Dear Father D’Souza,


I must first thank you for your excellent report of the Secretariat for the year ending 1979. I find it objective, deep, going into all the aspects of the scientific apostolate among Jesuits, pointing out the needs for the future and the tremendous opportunities that present themselves to Jesuit Scientists from an apostolic point of view. Both Father Assistant and the Provincial of India have kept me informed about the progress of the Jesuit Scientists of the Indian Assistancy. I think that it is one of the most successful efforts in the whole Society to bring Jesuit Scientists together, and as such I cannot but congratulate you and commend you for being actively involved in the Secretariat and for editing regularly the bulletin of communication INTERACT. Communication is a very important part of this effort and I wish that you keep it up as generously as you can and if there is any difficulty in this that you let me know.


I think that you have touched upon every significant point that concerns the Jesuit Scientists in India. I shall briefly comment upon them more to emphasize them than to add anything new.


You have rightly elaborated on the need for collaboration among the Jesuits working in this area. You have only to look at my letter on the Intellectual Apostolate and the relevant passages in the decree of the 31st and 32nd General Congregations, referred to by Father Casimir during the first meeting, to see how much this is in the best of the Society’s tradition. It is true, all cannot be engaged in this difficult apostolate; but such apostolates should never be lacking in the Society. Study in depth and working for long term objectives should characterize this effort. Thus it needs men who are not only willing to do hidden hard work, but men who will work with a deep sense of faith, being content with sowing where others will reap.


I see collaboration necessary so that Jesuits working in this area will ‘confirm’ each other. In 2. 4. you speak about the need of some to work in public sector undertakings. I have mentioned this in my letter on the Intellectual Apostolate. However I would add that this should be done in the spirit of GC 32, d. 4 nn. 45, 65 with great care in the choice of persons and in their continued relationship with the community.


Secondly I would emphasize the role of the Jesuit scientist as one who could train young men in research to a sense of objectivity, to a commitment to truth. How many of our alumni prize not so much the content of knowledge that they received, as the spirit, the method, the criteria they learnt from their Jesuit educators! Concerning the content of the subjects of research, we should be aware of our limitations and therefore develop criteria in the choice of the subjects, like what others are not doing, what will be of greater service to the poor and neglected, areas where we can do collaborative work etc.


What you say about the directly apostolic aspect of the Jesuit Scientist’s work is very important, under its double aspect of theological-philosophical reflection, and the aspect of presence among men of science. Here I would emphasize the need for Indian Jesuits to reflect more on Indian problems, and make their just contribution to the work of the Society. An interdisciplinary formation in the same man, e.g. a scientist doing some advanced studies in theology or philosophy and vice versa is what seems to have given the best results so far. This of course does not exclude common meetings between scientists and theologians. This is all the more necessary in the context of the Pope’s mandate to us to combat atheistic and secularist tendencies by reflecting on the roots of these trends and meet the challenges they pose to our Faith in certain values, and in Salvation History.


Well, dear Father D’Souza, I think I have written enough to tell you how much I am interested in this apostolate of our Jesuit Scientists of the Indian Assistancy, and how much I wish it to grow. I shall convey to the Superiors your desire for greater support and inspiration from them.



Devotedly yours in Christ our Lord,

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.




Original Source:

Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “Jesuit Scientists Unite,” pg. 127–129.

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