First Jesuit pope brings new concerns, new style

Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:26pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan and Mary Wisniewski

VATICAN CITY/CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Jesuits, the legendary order of Roman Catholic priests known for its intellectuals, missionaries and iconoclasts, are unusual in the Church because they take a vow of obedience to the pope.

Now that one from their own ranks has become Pope Francis, Jesuits are wondering whether there should even be a Jesuit pontiff and how former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio can carry out this unprecedented task.

Jesuits described themselves as doubly stunned by the surprise election but sure that Francis would take his guidance from their order's long tradition of spirituality that stresses practical solutions to problems in the world.

"I am a bit shocked by the fact we have a Jesuit pope," said Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi, himself an Italian Jesuit. "Usually the Jesuits don't accept, or at least try to resist being nominated as bishops or cardinals.

"Who will the pope obey now? How will this obedience work?" asked Rev Nicolas Steeves, a French-American Jesuit doing doctoral studies in Paris.

Francis has not yet given any outline of reforms he plans for the scandal-hit Vatican, but Jesuits contacted by Reuters sketched out the guidelines they thought he would use.


"Jesuit spirituality is very practical, it's about helping people meet God in the concrete realities of their lives," said Rev Kevin O'Brien, Jesuit chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington.   Continued...

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome, March 14, 2013. At left is Cardinal Santos Abril of Spain and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome at right. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi