Welcome to Pope Francis SJ!
The Jesuits in Britain welcome the election of Cardinal Bergoglio – Pope Francis – with a mixture of surprise and great joy, and pray for God’s blessing upon his papacy. As a member of the Society of Jesus, he would never have sought such a high office in the Church but he will be accepting it in a spirit of service and humility, recognising his role both as Bishop of Rome and as the leader of the Catholic Church.
The choice of the name Francis is both thoughtful and significant for the Jesuits. While acknowledging the qualities of St Francis of Assisi – his simple lifestyle and his role as a bridge-builder – Jesuits will also be mindful of the great Jesuit missionary and Companion of St Ignatius, St Francis Xavier, who committed himself to taking the Gospel to the farthest corners of the world, to those that had never heard of or experienced the love of Christ. Pope Francis will also have in his mind the instruction to the Society of Jesus of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, to maintain that missionary zeal of the Jesuits – to take the Gospel to those areas of human existence in need of God, to those who are marginalised and in poverty, spiritually as well as physically.
The fact that Pope Francis comes from Latin America and has experience of working among the poor and the vulnerable will inevitably colour his papacy. But he also has a reputation as having strong leadership skills; he is renowned for being a good listener and for collaboration. These are qualities that will be crucial as he takes office as Pope – in working with his fellow bishops and in reforming the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church.
The Jesuits in Britain offer praise to God for the election of Pope Francis and join the worldwide Church in prayers for him, in the service of God’s people.