Publication of Documents from GC36
The documents from the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (GC36) have been published. They will be issued by the Jesuits in Britain as part of a book within the next few weeks and will help to formulate the Province’s planning and priorities for the years ahead.
GC36 took place in Rome between 3 October and 12 November last year. It brought together more than 200 Jesuits from around the world to elect their Superior General and to address the priorities for Jesuit life and work in the current world situation. As the ultimate governing body in the Society of Jesus, a General Congregation also legislates any changes deemed necessary and agrees the publication of a number of documents once the Congregation has concluded. Fr Arturo Sosa SJ was elected as Superior General on 14 October; and GC36 was also addressed by Pope Francis on 24 October. His address to the delegates in among the documents that have now been published.
“Although the Congregation ended in the middle of November, there was a need to make sure that the agreed texts were translated properly into the various official languages and that the legal texts were aligned and consistent with Church and Society Law,” explains Fr Dermot Preston SJ, the Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain who was one of the delegates at GC36.
The documents of GC36 were finally published on 6 January 2017, by a formal Letter of Promulgation issued by Fr General Sosa. They begin with an Historical Introduction which maps out something of the overall narrative of GC36 and continue with two formal Decrees – one on Mission and one on Governance.
A great ministry of reconciliation
A series of long conversations under the theme of Life and Mission of the Society resulted in a major decree from GC36, which consists of a number of key elements. These include consideration of the current situation in the world, which is experiencing “a time of crisis”, in which people do not easily identify their spiritual roots and could be said to have lost their sense of God. “With the eyes of faith, we, Jesuits, want to participate in a great ministry of reconciliation based on justice, faith and solidarity with the poor, something that was at the core of the experience of our First Companions,” a statement from the Jesuit Curia in Rome said at the end of GC36.
The decree on Mission also considers Jesuit life – a place of encounter and sharing, in which simplicity of lifestyle and openness of heart allow the Jesuits to reach out and to share with others; the issue of spiritual renewal, in order that Jesuits can be capable of enflaming those they counter with compassion; and reconciliation, especially through the Jesuits’ ministry of justice and peace that fights against inequalities, and with Creation.
Other documents from GC36 include an open letter to Jesuits in Conflict Zones, the text of Fr Lombardi’s reflection in appreciation of Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ on the occasion of the latter’s resignation as Superior General, and the texts of four key homilies that were preached during the Congregation.
A horizon that is constantly changing
The Address of Pope Francis to GC36 and the Question and Answer session with him that followed his address are also formally incorporated into the GC documents. “In his discourse to the Congregation, Francis implicitly warned us about holding too many clear and distinct objectives as in business planning,” explained Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, director of La Civiltà Cattolica. “The horizon that orients the journey is the Glory of God who is always greater, he said. That is: the Society must walk having before itself a horizon that changes continually and enlarges. The portrait of the Society painted by the Pope is then dynamic, ‘incomplete’ in itself and ‘open’.”
Three short documents published last week from GC36 cover technical modifications to the Society’s Constitutions and the Complimentary Norms, a number of topics that the Congregation asked Father General Sosa to explore and the list of the Jesuits who were participants at GC36. The 17 documents have now been circulated electronically to Jesuits across the world and, in the coming months, each Province will be deciding how best to integrate them into their ministry. The British Province will be publishing the GC documents as part of a book at the end of January; they will form the basis of the reflection and planning that will be taking place in the Province throughout 2017.