Jonathan Rodrigues | TNN | 6 hours ago
Panaji: In Rome, a spiritual meeting is underway, as the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order founded by St Ignatius of Loyola, prepares to elect the Spaniard’s 30th successor — a new ‘Black Pope’. Representing 112 countries, 79 provinces and six continents, 215 members of the order have been involved in deep prayer and intense discussions at the 36th General Congregation (GC 36), held at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, and, on October 14, they will elect their new general.
India has the largest population of Jesuits in the world and there is strong feeling among the 3,000-odd Indian Jesuits that 476 years since its existence, the general may be one of their own. But, sources from inside the Jesuit Curia in Rome say that it could be a South American, considering that Christianity is more widespread and a bigger part of the local culture in Latin America than Asia.
The Catholic Church broke stereotypes by electing a non-European Pope, an Argentinian Jesuit — Jorge Bergoglio, in 2013, and by 4pm on Friday, the world will know if the Society of Jesus will take a similar plunge at its 36th General Congregation during which Jesuits will elect their new general, who is also called the Black Pope.
The election will take place after the delegates concelebrate the Eucharist at 7.30am in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Rome. The thirtieth and most recent Superior General is the Fr Adolfo Nicolás, who officially resigned on October 3, 2016.
What makes GC 36 special is that it's the first paper-less congregation. The Jesuits will digitally vote for their new general through a tablet.
Despite TOI’s several attempts to break down the code of silence and secrecy about who could be the next general of the largest religious order of the Catholic Church, conversations with the Jesuits failed to produce any name. “There is no point in speculating. Every time we speculate who it could be, it never matches the one chosen with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The 215 delegates in Rome can elect any one of them or someone out there in the world who is a professed Jesuit priest, having taken his fourth vow to the ChurchThe possibilities for anyone to be elected is roughly about one in 15,000. So, we have to just wait with bated breath and restrained excitement, spending time in prayer,” says Fr Cedric Prakash, a Gujarat-based Jesuit, who is currently on a mission in Beirut, Lebanon, as the advocacy and communications officer of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
The GC 36, which officially began on October 2, is in the most exciting stage called ‘murmaratio’, where the focus is on electing a new leader, through a process of intense prayer and great confidentiality. “A new general will bring in new leadership and inspiration to respond to the challenges facing the society and will reformulate the mission of the Society of Jesus in a language that appeal to younger Jesuits,” says Fr Anthony da Silva, former provincial of the Goa province of the Society of Jesus, who is currently based at the Xavier Centre for Historical Research, Porvorim.
Da Silva, who hails from Moira, was in Rome in March 2008, when the Jesuits gathered for GC 35 and he recounts his experience. “A few names start to surface at the beginning of the congregation and the next days are spent in getting to know better the people behind these names by having a one-on-one conversations with each of them. We could sit down for a coffee or share the same dining table, or just take a walk, but we discuss their vision for the society and explore their leadership capabilities. There is no debate or political lobbying or propaganda. On the election day, which is October 14 this year, there is this powerful spiritual feeling that will drive the congregation to narrow down on a couple of names, after which, we vote,” he says.
“The biggest challenges the Jesuits face in South Asia are growing instances of intolerance, exploitation and injustices. At the global level, some of our challenges include engaging ourselves in works of restoration, responding to the environmental crisis gripping our planet and humanely handling the refugee crisis in many parts of the world,” said scholastic Anderson Fernandes, a Jesuit from Margao, who is currently pursuing his theological studies at Vidyajyoti College of Theology, New Delhi.