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What legacy will the first Jesuit papacy leave for the Society of Jesus?

2016-02-23

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio surprised the world when he became Pope Francis. Some of the most bewildered were members of the new Pope's religious order, the Society of Jesus. 

Fr. James Martin, an American Jesuit, recalled the many feelings he went through that day.

FR. JAMES MARTIN, SJ
America Magazine
"Well, there's never been a Jesuit Pope. And so there was a lot of confusion. There was a lot of excitement. And you know, there had been some times when Jesuits had been seen by some in the Vatican with suspicion. And so there was this great sense of a cloud being lifted.”

A well-known writer in the United States, Martin is editor-at-large for America Magazine. He's a best-selling author, and his latest book is "The Seven Last Words.”

He said the Pope's Ignatian Spirituality manifests most clearly through his "freedom.”

FR. JAMES MARTIN, SJ
America Magazine
"He is free of the need to cling to traditions that he doesn't think are important. For example, he can move out of the Apostolic Palace. He doesn't have to wear the red shoes. He doesn't have to drive around in a big car. These are things that he feels are not essential and so he can be free of them. That is a very Jesuit trait.”

This papacy has inspired a wave of new Jesuit vocations, Martin explained. And that's not all the Pope has done for the Society of Jesus.

FR. JAMES MARTIN, SJ
America Magazine
"One of the lasting impacts of Pope Francis' papacy on the Jesuits is that the Jesuits are no longer seen with suspicion by the larger Church. People now have seen what a Jesuit is, what a Jesuit does, and how a Jesuit acts. And I think it's been in a sense, the mainstreaming of the Jesuits, after 450 years.”

While he's helped his religious order in countless ways, the Pope has also imprinted their style on the papacy. Martin said that he expects that future Popes will embrace poverty and freedom in the same way this one has.

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