On February 5, 1991, Jesuit father Pedro Arrupe died. A Basque like St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, he first studied medicine before joining the Jesuits. Sent to Japan, he witnessed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and he and other Jesuits attended to the victims of that atrocity in their seminary, four miles from ground zero.
In 1965 he became Father General of the Society of Jesus and led the congregation until he resigned in 1983 after suffering a disabling stroke in 1981. During his last two years as Father General the pope had appointed an acting father general, overlooking Father Arrupe’s choice. He accepted this with a great equanimity.
Beside this, perhaps his greatest legacy was the Thirty-Second Congregation of the Society, December 1974 to March 1975. The fourth decree set the direction of the society to a “faith that does justice.”
As the decree stated:
“Our faith in Jesus Christ and our mission to proclaim the Gospel demand of us a commitment to promote justice and enter into solidarity with the voiceless and the powerless.”
This is not something new – but it brought the society into a more profound encounter with the world of the poor. The Jesuits were often considered to be the elite order of the church and to concentrate their efforts on the education of the elite. But now they felt called to be with the poor.
The Gospel calls us to accompany the poor, to listen to the voiceless and powerless. It can, at times, call us to become poor or to be in solidarity with the poor in such as way that we find ourselves also marginalized.
But it comes from an encounter with Jesus, the poor man of Nazareth, the God who emptied himself to become flesh like us – and from an encounter with the poor.
Today, in memory of Father Pedro Arrupe, is a good day to remember this and renew our commitment to God and to the poor.