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Adolfo Nicolás sj: “It was impossible to imagine that one of us would be elected Pope”

September 7, 2016

The most prestigious European Jesuits journals will publish this September the interview that the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica”, has made with the Father General of the Society of Jesus, Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, who will resign next month. In Spain, the centenary “Razón y Fe” (Reason and Faith) was responsible for its publication.
“For the Jesuits it was impossible to imagine that one of us would elected pope, only two hundred years after the suppression and twenty five after a papal intervention in the governance of the company”, sincerely responds Fr. General. For him “having had the improbable happen, the election of a Superior General in the pontificate of Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit and therefore well acquainted with the Society, acquires a special meaning.”
Nicolas expects that the General Congregation, aside from electing a “good Superior General,” would have the Pope address the participants and present “his feelings and concerns” and that its fruit may be “a better religious life in the spirit of the Gospel and a renewed capacity for imagination (…) We need audacity, imagination and courage.”
For this 80 year old Palencian, who has been in office since 2008, the Church needs “a new language that uses the wisdom of the wise, or the wisdom of the people, to speak a language that the world is able to understand.” Because his worldview is countercultural: “We must begin to conceive of humanity as a unit and not as a set of countries separated from each other by their traditions, cultures and prejudices. We need to think of a humanity in need of God, in need of a depth that can only come from the union of all.”
He also believes that the Church lacks formation: “The formation of priests is missing something. First it needs a more demanding reading of the New Testament. For the teaching of the Pope to become a living reality, we need to make the formation of clergy ‘a training for discernment.'”
Fr. General responds with an inner serenity that knows how to look to the past and the future without shadows. He considers that “religious life is going well” and “a new hope has also been created around Pope Francis, who knows us very well and knows the place and the mission that religious life has in the Church.”

Jesuits, persons whose thought is incomplete
In 2013, during another interview with the same Spadaro, Pope Francis said that the Jesuit must be a person “whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking.” For Fr. General that means that “we have much to learn from silence, from humility, from simple discretion. The Jesuit, as I once said in Africa, should smell of three things: of sheep, that is, of what his people, his community lives; of a library, that is, of reflection in depth; and of the future, that is, of a radical openness to God’s surprise. I think these things can make the Jesuit a man of open-ended thinking.”
Fr. General considers that the problems of the Society of Jesus, “are the problems of humanity, i.e. poverty, unemployment, lack of meaning, violence, lack of joy.” And the question is therefore, how deal with these problems? For Nicolás Pachón “here comes the religious factor, which involves putting the ‘other’ first, with that kind of detachment that allows one to go where we lose our usual security.”

Download the full interview here