Francis visits Jesuit community that could have been his

Pope Francis speaks to students and staff at the Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo yesterday (CNS/Vatican Media via Reuters)

Pope Francis wrapped up his Japan visit in a very personal way yesterday, spending the morning with his Jesuit confreres in the community that would have been his own had his dream to be a missionary come true. Source: Crux.

Francis celebrated morning Mass in the chapel of the Jesuit-run Sophia University and visited retired and sick priests before delivering a speech on Jesuit education in the final event of his week-long Asia pilgrimage.

“In a society as competitive and technologically oriented as present-day Japan, this university should be a centre not only of intellectual formation, but also a place where a better society and a more hope-filled future can take shape,” he told faculty and students.

As a young Jesuit in Argentina, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio had dreamed of following in the footsteps of St Francis Xavier, who introduced Christianity to Japan in the 16th century.

He was prevented because of health reasons, but he joked with Japanese bishops upon arriving in Tokyo that he got his “revenge” when he was in charge of the order in Buenos Aires and sent five Argentine priests to Japan as missionaries.

One of those Argentine priests is now the head of the Jesuits in Japan, Fr Renzo De Luca, who served as Francis’s interpreter for the trip.

Fr De Luca has said his former seminary rector was someone who was particularly “close” to his students, always available even though at a certain point there were more than 100 living in the seminary.

If Francis had come to Japan as a missionary, he likely would have eventually ended up at Sophia, a prestigious private university that caters to the wealthy, like many of the Catholic schools in Japan.

There, Francis met his long-time friend Fr Adolfo Nicolas, an 83-year-old former superior general of the Jesuits who had taught theology for three decades. Fr Nicolas was recovering from a recent health problem.

Francis urged the school not just to be a centre for elites, but to consider more marginal groups.

“Quality university education should not be the privilege of a few, but constantly informed by the effort to serve justice and the common good,” he said.


Pope visits Jesuit Japan community that could have been his (Crux)

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