September 27, 2014 — Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, celebrated a special liturgy of thanksgiving in the Church of the Gesù in Rome today to mark the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. In 1814, Pope Pius VII re-established the Society of Jesus in the universal Church after it was suppressed in 1773 by Pope Clement XIV.
"The date of September 27 [for the liturgy] was not chosen by chance. For us Jesuits, it’s a very important day because on September 27, 1540, Pope Paul III approved the Society for the first time,” explained Jesuit Father Giuseppe Bellucci.
In his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of discernment. “Only discernment saves us from real uprooting, from true ‘suppression’ of the heart, which is selfishness, worldliness, the loss of our horizon. Our hope, is Jesus; it is only Jesus.”
He also called upon Jesuits to be “brave and expert rowers.”
“Row, be strong, even with the headwind! We row in the service of the Church. We row together! But while we row — we all row, even the Pope rows in the boat of Peter — we must pray a lot, ‘Lord, save us! Lord save your people.’”
Pope Francis gives Father General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, the Book of the Gospels and asks him to "Go set the world on fire," quoting Ignatius.
He concluded his homily by reminding Jesuits that their identity "is that of a man who loves God and loves and serves his brothers, showing by example not only that in which he believes, but also that in which he hopes, and who is the One in whom he has put his trust.”
After Pope Francis finished speaking, all the Jesuits present, led by Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, renewed their promise of commitment to the mission and to the Successor of Peter.
Pope Francis was welcomed to the Church of the Gesù by Fr. Adolfo Nicolàs, SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits.
Fr. Nicolàs thanked the pope — whom he called “Brother Francis” — for being with them for this milestone celebration.
At the end of the service, Pope Francis visited a side chapel in the church and blessed a painting, a Deposition of Christ by the artist Safet Zec. The painting was installed that morning, just a few hours before the pope's arrival. This Deposition — the removal of Christ's body from the cross — is unique in that the faces of the three Jesuits who are buried in that side chapel are depicted in the painting, and each guided the Society during times of struggle: St. Joseph Pignatelli, SJ, (1737-1811), a Spanish Jesuit who served as a guiding light during the time of the Suppression of the Society; Jan Roothaan, SJ, (1785-1853), superior general during a period when Jesuits were still being banished from many countries; and Pedro Arrupe, SJ, (1907-1991), who endured great challenges following a stroke near the end of his life and is also remembered for founding the Jesuit Refugee Serivce.