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In US, Jesuit novitiates report doubling in number of young men applying to enter

June 6, 2016

More people, particularly the youth are discovering their growing attraction to St. Ignatius de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, primarily because of the popularity of Pope Francis.

"There is real interest in St. Ignatius brought about by the wonderful work of Pope Francis," explained Jesuit Communications head Father Emmanuel Alfonso in a recent press conference about "Ignacio de Loyola," a biopic telling part of the Jesuit founder's life story.

"That comes from the power of the Gospel that is Pope Francis," said Father Alfonso, who was with JesCom creative director Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin, the film's director Paolo Dy, and lead actor Andreas Munoz during the press briefing.

According to Father Alfonso, the fact that in the U.S. alone Jesuit novitiates report a doubling in the number of young men applying to enter the congregation validates the so-called Pope Francis effect.

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7 Jun 2016 - 09:51

Pune: A cloistered nun, who researched on scramjet engines, was among 23 people who were recently conferred PhD degrees in aerospace engineering.

Dressed in the habit of her religious order, Sister Benedicta of the Holy Face, received the degree at the 8th convocation of the Defence Institute of Advance Technology (DIAT) in Pune on May 31.

She had obtained special permission from her superiors to attend the convocation ceremony as outside contact is forbidden in her order, The Indian Express reported on May 3.

“I had joined the religious order post my final viva last year and this was the first time I came out after that. The rules of our order forbid us from going out of the convent and I was given special permission to attend the convocation, “she said.
Born Roschelle R M in Kuwait just before the Gulf war, Sr Benedicta had finished her graduation from the St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and acquired her Master’s degree in space science from Pune University.

In the field of aerospace, her doctoral work was on scramjet engines. These engines are used mostly for hyper-sonic vehicles and for space vehicles also. Theoretically, such vehicles can drastically reduce the air travel time anywhere on Earth to just 90 minutes.

Benedicta had decided to join the religious order post the completion of her PhD. By her own admission she always had a propensity for such a life, but she got her “call” post attending a special retreat in Pune.

“My family had an inkling that I might join the religious order, but when I took the decision to join a contemplative order they were shocked,” she added.

Members of a cloistered order are barred from outside contact and are expected to remain in their orders leading a life of prayer and meditation.
The pontifical congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face focuses on doing acts of reparation to Jesus Christ.

It was started in 1950 as organization named “Prayerful Sodality” by Venerable Abbot Hildebrand Gregory. It became a pontifical congregation in 1977 as the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face.

The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus dates back to Sister Marie of St Peter, a Carmelite nun in Tours, France. She had in 1843 visions of Jesus and Mary who urged her to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in reparation for the many insults Jesus suffered in his Passion.

Venerable Leo Dupont, who is known as the apostle of the Holy Face, spread the devotion to other countries. He prayed for the establishment of the devotion for 30 years, burning a lamp before a painted image of Jesus. Pope Leo XIII approved of the devotion in 1885.

On the first Friday in Lent 1936, Sister Maria Pierina de Micheli, a nun born near Milan in Italy, reported a vision in which Jesus told her:

“I will that My Face, which reflects the intimate pains of My Spirit, the suffering and the love of My Heart, be more honored. He who meditates upon Me, consoles Me.”

In his letter of September 27, 2000, to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the order, Pope John Paul II described the goal of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face as: “The unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified.”

In 1997 Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini formed the International Institute for Research on the Face of Christ in Rome in association with the Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face.

The congregation now has houses on several continents.

**Published on: 9:54 pm, June 5, 2016 Story By:


7 Jun 2016 - 09:38

Kolkata: Udayani Social Action Forum, the social wing of Calcutta Jesuits, has prepared an environmental policy for its staff and beneficiaries.

The policy makers of the nation supported by business houses have brought the earth to a crisis point in the name of development and growth, bemoans Fr I Jyothi, director of the forum introducing the new policy.

He said his forum members realized the need to intervene to save the earth in order to save themselves.

“We are part of the structural exploitation of Mother Earth unknowingly and unwillingly. We take responsibility to correct ourselves and take concrete steps to amend our ways of behavior toward the Environment which sustains our being,” the Jesuit priest told Matters India.

He says the climate change has adversely affected the marginalized forcing them to ‘cli-migration’ (migration due to climate change) for survival. The worst affected are the Dalit and tribal communities, who identify themselves with “Jal, Jamin and Jangle” (water, land and forest).

“We have realized that in the name of development the earth is assaulted and disfigured by our selfishness. There is an attempt to invade every aspects of the globe making it warmer every year,” Fr Jothi added.

The forum has decided to keep away from plastic materials under its policy of “refuse, reduce and re-use.”

The center will not use banners and flex boards in future and adopt carry bags made of cloth, jute or threads.

They will strive to reduce wastage of food, avoid serving food on disposable plates and cups. They will not use plastic bottles for water.

For office works, conferences and workshops, they will use emails for those who can access and take printouts only for those who cannot access internet.

They will upload materials in PDF format on net and announce it for those accessible to internet. They will make CDs for those who cannot access internet but have computers.

They will encourage use of scribbling pads made of one-sided papers, reusable pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. Another decision is to use paper tapes instead of cellotapes to stick chart papers.

The forum members will use cloth flags, natural materials such as leaves and flowers for decoration, design banners and decorative materials in modules so that it can be reused.

They will avoid plastic identity cards, instead use paper cards with cotton/jute thread or cloth stripes. They will avoid giving bouquets and use handloom shawls or curios made by communities using ecologically sustainable materials

The forum members will encourage use of buses and share cabs, procure materials locally to avoid fuel consumption.

They will prefer rooms with good ventilation instead of air-conditioning, ensure the public address system does not disturb public life.

Another proposal is to make use of day light, promote solar energy and plant more saplings every year.

“In our attempt to rewind our own lives, we decide not to wait for order and change from above but promise to change ourselves and our surroundings with concrete steps. We decide to contribute to the wellbeing of the biodiversity and thus build our own ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam,” the Jesuit priest said.

** Published on: 2:49 am, June 7, 2016 Story By: Matters India Reporter


7 Jun 2016 - 09:31

9th May, 2016

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                    

Greetings from San Salvador.

I arrived here on 2nd May to participate in the Joint meeting of the two Conferences of USA-Canada and of CPAL (Latin America and the Caribbean). Mike Lewis, sj President of JESAM (Africa/Madagascar) also joined us in this meeting. Fr. General was very much with us from 3-5 May. The meet provided great opportunity for the provincials of both the Conference to share on Fe Y Alegria , MAGIS, Migration and Formation and to explore ways of greater collaboration. They even dared to discuss the possibility of becoming one Conference! The presidents of each of our four Conferences shared on our Conferences through short presentations.

The most inspiring moments for me were the visits to the tombs of Monsignor Romero at the Cathedral, and that of Ellacuria and Companions at the Jesuit Residence. The little chapel where Romero was murdered continues to attract people. Blood stained vestments and recorded homilies of Romero rekindled our memories and inspired us to commit for a faith that does justice. Unfortunately, the process of investigation continues to be entangled in Govt Amnesty and hold of the army, while the process of beatification is going on smoothly.

Visiting the Rose Garden in the Jesuit Residence of the Central American University where Ellacuria and companions were murdered, was an intense and invigorating experience. The well- kept museum of the many martyrs of El Salvador including Ellacuria and companions and the chapel where they are buried vibrate with memories of the cost of discipleship. Ellacuria had said that God visited his people of El Salvador through the death of Romero; now we could say that the Lord confirmed his way through the death of Ellacuria and Companions. After all these years, the process of investigation both in El Salvador and in Spain is entangled in legal battles.

The Joint Conference meeting was followed by CPAL meeting where the provincials deliberated on many issues that pertain CPAL that is spread over many countries. Fe Y Alegria, Magis, Migration, Panamazonian eco-reserve, and formation etc were discussed and deliberated upon.  Though spread out in so many countries, the key issues of the mission like Fe Y Alegria and Panamazonic give greater focus to their mission.

Just now I am staying in the Jesuit community of the Central University and learning more about their work, especially through the department of theology. Asian theologians like Aloysius Pieris and Michael Amaladoss are known to the theologians here. I also hope to meet Javier Aguilar, sj, 84 year old Jesuit who was the mentor for Rutilio Grande and Romero; the former being the inspiration for the latter and whose martyrdom converted Romero into a prophetic voice.   The cause for beatification of Rutilio Grande, sj has been initiated.

Fe y Alegria has a pedagogy that is based on the Exercises and provides a vision of education that is holistic and formative. Our non-formal education centres could be adapted to this model.

I leave on Sunday for Guyana and hope to visit the missions where Indian Jesuits are working; there are 12 of them and Joseph Raj (CCU) will join them sooner. The South-South collaboration between CPAL and JCSA is mutually enriching. Some of CPAL Jesuits come to our tertianships.

En Salvador continues to suffer from gang violence related to drugs; extortions and murders are not uncommon.

Paraguay and Guyana continue to look for personnel support from JCS. Let us encourage our young men to opt for a period of service to this region so that we continue to embody the universal call.

Warm regards, 

George Pattery,sj

Provincial of South Asia

At the Altar where Romero was murdered

At the tomb of Romero

At the Rose Garden where Ellacuria and co were murdered


10 May 2016 - 20:15

Published on: 6:23 pm, January 1, 2016 Story By: Santosh Digal

Kotama: More than 2,500 Catholics, including priests and nuns, on Dec 30 attended the ordination of the first Jesuit priest from Kandhamal district in Odisha, the scene of the worst anti-Christian violence in modern India.

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur ordained Narendra Singh, at St. Teresa Child Jesus’ Church, Kotama of Gajapati district. The 35-year-old priest is a member of the Calcutta Jesuit Province.

Father Singh, also known as Punim, hails from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish of Alanjuri village near Bamunigam town in Kandhamal district.

“History has been made for Kandhamal and Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese with the ordination of Fr Singh,” said Bishop Nayak in his homily. He described the new priest as “our pride and benchmark for the community” when the universal Church is celebrating the Year of Mercy. The prelate urged all to pray for for young boys to join the Society of Jesus and other religious congregations to serve the Church and society at large.

Jesuits, or the Society of Jesus, entered Kandhamal in 1993, at least 15 years before the tribal-dominated district witnessed months-long attacks against Christians that killed at least 90 people and rendered more than 50,000 homeless.

Currently, Odisha, the eastern India state, has ten Jesuit priests. Seven of them are from Sundergarh district under Rourkela diocese, two are from Sambalpur diocese and one from Gajapati district in Berhampur diocese.

Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, director of Odisha Forum for Social Action (OROSA) and a human rights activist, who hails from the same village of the newly ordained priest, says more young boys from Kandhamal should join the Society of Jesus, religious orders and dioceses to work for the poor and needy.

Another priest working in Kandhamal, speaking on condition of anonymity, regretted that Jamshedpur Jesuit Province that covers Odisha refuses to recruit boys from Kandhamal and Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese.

Jesuits have been working in Odisha for decades, he noted.

Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese covers nine civil districts.

The Jamshedpur Jesuit province has accepted members from other four dioceses of Odisha.

“There is incredible happiness in all of us priests, nuns and people in our village and the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar,” Father Augustine Singh, president of diocesan priests’ association of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, told Matters India.

Others noted that the Jesuit priest’s ordination is taking place at a time when the Church in Odisha is marking the birth anniversary of the first Catholic priest from the eastern Indian state. Late Father Pascal Singh, a diocesan priest, also hailed from Alanjuri parish.

“I have no words to express how happy I feel that my brother is going to be a Jesuit priest. It is all by the blessings of God and the hard work of my brother,” said William Singh, the eldest brother of the new priest.

Narendra is the fourth of five children in the family (three sons and two daughters). His parents — Laxman Singh and Petronila Singh – are no more.

Fr. Singh thanked everyone present on the occasion, especially this ordaining prelate, Jesuit superiors, parents, teachers and villagers who have contributed to his life and training.

Fr Singh said the Society of Jesus has given him tremendous scope to discover his potentials. The responsible freedom he enjoys in the congregation has made him mature and sensitive to others’ needs.

His hobbies include writing novels, short stories, skits and plays, acting, art, playing tabla, and drums. He started his education from his village primary school and then Government High School at Bamunigam. He joined the Society of Jesus in 2000.

He did philosophy in Pune and theology in Delhi. He was ordained a deacon on February 14.

Jesuits in Odisha now manage six parishes, 14 schools, one University and three non-formal education centers. The first Jesuit priest to work in Kandhamal was Fr. Jerry Kujur in Tumudibandha in 1993. The first Jesuit house in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar was Loyola Bhavan, Bhubaneswar in July 1985.


3 May 2016 - 07:01



Source: news; Jesuits Around the World:

Vol. XX, No. 08

April 20, 2016

Poverty and Solidarity

Looking at the worldwide Society, it can sometimes seem that some of ours are living with the poor, while others live with little or no direct contact with them. What would you say to a Jesuit who has little contact with the poor?

R. I would say to him that he is missing something or, at least, a great opportunity. The poor teach us something unique about humanity and the true value of "being" over "having," the criteria for true friendships, and the like. In the same way, they teach us something of the Gospel, which otherwise we cannot learn, unless we are very advanced in the way of the Lord, which no one can consider himself to be. No one can be forced to lead a life that we can consider ideal. As my predecessor, Father Pedro Arrupe said to a group of Jesuits, "In the Society all are called to work for the poor; Some (a good group) are called to work like the poor; and a few are called to work with the poor". It is important to maintain the dynamic relationship among AllSome and A few. This respects everyone's choice and is open to the variety of each one's response to the call from the Lord.

Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis said he wanted a "church that is poor and for the poor." Could we say the same about the Society?

R. Without any doubt and even more so. After all, we have a vow of poverty that has to mean something in today's world. The difficulties of making it real do not take away the fact that the vow is not an individual choice, but a way of life of the whole Order.

Sometimes Jesuits may fear working with the poor--as if it is a sort of special vocation that they do not share. What would you say to a Jesuit who feels this way? How best can we be in solidarity with the poor in our contemporary world?

R. It is very difficult to be in solidarity with anybody if we do not know him and his life or problems. Solidarity implies a kind of nearness that is affective and affectionate. It is something like what the general Uriah did when David wanted to hide his own sin. The general refused to go to his own home and wife, out of solidarity with his soldiers. A Jesuit, friend of mine, said that he wished that the Jesuits would, at least, reach the level of spirituality of this great pagan of the Bible.


Obedience -Will of God and Process


Before you became Superior General, what was your lived experience of obedience?

R. It was the ordinary experience of all Jesuits. You grow in the desire to find and do the Will of God, and the Superior of the Province or of your Community becomes the mediator. So, for instance, Father General Janssens asked for volunteers for different missions, I offered myself as such, and I was sent to Japan. Nothing in this process is different from what is expected of every Jesuit.

For most Jesuits obedience consists in doing their day-to-day jobs. Is there a way that they can find that experience life giving, rather than simply a chore?

R. It all depends on the attitude, the heart with which you do your mission, or your job, or the chores that go with it. What gives life is not the job or the chores, but the Lord, who calls us to his service. This is the key for our discernment, and our freedom, even in the midst of the most difficult obedience. When I was young, I once heard a Jesuit say, "In our younger years the most difficult vow might be chastity, but in our more mature years it is Obedience".

Maybe the answer to this and other questions is that we revise the process of obedience. That we restore the "search;" that we refuse to make God's will mechanical and automatic and that we involve ourselves in the search for it. Importantly, I have to know that the Superior and I are moving to the same goal, which is the Will of God in mission. What really matters is not my will or the development of my limited talents but the service of souls, as we, the body of the Society, commit ourselves to this service in the Church.

Many people outside the Jesuits are puzzled about our brand of obedience. Can you explain to them how God's will works through our governance?

R. As I just said, nobody can claim to know the Will of God with certainty. We are all searchers and we are always supposed to discern where the Will of God is. This is so serious that Saint Ignatius came to consider that, if the subject has very good and serious reasons why a concrete order of the Superior might not be the Will of God, because of its negative consequences, he is obliged to propose a "representation", that is, arguments against the order, so that the Superior might reconsider it or not, knowing all the consequences. The key, therefore, rests in the fact that all the Jesuits are involved in the search for the Will of God. It is more difficult to "represent" than to accept orders that make no sense; or simply said; it is easier to complain than to contribute. 


30 Apr 2016 - 08:25

Victor Edwin SJ

Twenty-seven South Asian Jesuit theologians met at Ashirvad, Bangalore for the First Seminar of the South Asian Jesuit Theologians’ Forum from 23rd to 25th April 2016. They explored “South Asian (Indian) Christology” in the three day seminar. P.R. John SJ, professor of Systematic Theology at Vidyajyoti, the convener of the forum, organized this seminar.

The key to the dynamics of the Seminar can be traced to the First South Asian Jesuit Theologians’ Colloquium that was convened by Father Michael Amaladoss in Delhi, 2014.  The participants of this Colloquium recognized that the pivotal aspect of their mission as Jesuit theologians was the quest to facilitate Christians as well as peoples of other religious faiths and traditions in the nourishment of their faith. In other words, they sought a context-oriented theology. Each theologian responded to this quest individually and collectively with the endeavor to:

1.   Introduce post-colonial, Dalit and Tribal perspectives into current Scripture research

2.   Explore the divine mystery without relativizing the Christian mystery

3.   Investigate the relationship between Christ and various symbols

4.   Integrate human perspectives with theological writings

5.   Discover the riches of the Bible by  attention to its context

6.   Explore interfaith relations.

The following question emerged from this ‘quest’ for a contextual theology: What are the frontiers? Jesuit spirituality defines ‘frontier’ not only as distant geographical regions but as the religious space of the ‘other’. Besides, Jesuit spirituality seeks to explore the deeper link between Gospel and culture. Based on this ‘quest’ and this ‘question’ and informed by their spirituality, the Jesuit theologians of the South Asian Assistancy resolved that, for the coming three years, they would focus on three inter-related themes: (1) Indian Christology (2) Hindutva and (3) the subalterns. Three groups were formed to prepare future seminars.

As envisioned, the first seminar explored Indian Christology. In his paper ‘The Cosmic Christ,’ Father Michael Amaladoss reflected on the presence and action of Christ outside the Church in the context of the theology of religions by distinguishing the Cosmic Christ from the historical Jesus. Drawing on the biblical texts of Paul and John and their vision of ‘God’s Plan” for humanity, Father Amaladoss pointed out that Paul (by evoking Christ) and John (by pointing to the Word) both transcend the limitations of the human Jesus. Thus, the biblical context offers theological space for theologians to speak about the Cosmic Christ in contrast with the historical Jesus. Further he noted that since it is difficult to relate the members of the other religions to the historical Jesus as mediated by the Church, theologians could link them (the people of other religious persuasions) to the salvific Word or the Cosmic Christ, who has a universal dimension. Fr Amaladoss called attention to Vatican II [GS No. 22]: “By his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man”. Fr Amaladoss pointed out that “the certain way” does not seem to be the historical way and added that the Mystical Christ may even relate to people in many historical ways, through many symbols, even secular ones. Amaladoss developed his reflection by saying that if the unity of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity does not permit such a distinction between the Cosmic Christ and the historical Jesus we can still refer to the work of with Spirit since “The Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery (GS 22). His profoundly theological paper led to a rigorous theological reflection. 

Sebastian Painadath emphasized that the divine reality is dynamic in nature. Sages and mystics of all religions, he said, distinguish between God and the Divine. God is viewed as a personal thou, while the Divine is trans-personal. Mind actively promotes an inter-personal relationship with God in religion; buddhi (nous), which is the inner intuitive faculty, opens one to a contemplative awareness of the mystery of the Divine. As far as we humans have mind and buddhi, we need both the personal forms of God and the trans-personal awareness of the Divine. 

Painadath further noted that when nous sinks deep within the consciousness towards the Divine within, the experience of the Divine will be a dynamic process of vibrating with the divine presence, not a static experience of indwelling. The Divine within is a vibrant presence.  This dynamic insertion to the Divine is the divinisation of human (theosis). Theosis is in fact a universal experience expressed in all religions. For a Christian this process or experiencing theosis comes through Christ. Theosis in Christian experience is Christosis. Theosis / Christosis of Christian experience is not limited to an individual. It has the social dimension that makes one perceive the reality of life with all its struggles as the transforming process of the divine Spirit that leads the human family unto the state where "God will be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).

Joseph Lobo in his paper: “Resurrection of the body: An absurdity to Asian religio-cultural sensibilities?” argued as follows:

The resurrection of the body is analogous to the sprouting of a seed beneath the chunks of soil and pebbles. Just as the sprout comes out pushing aside all the obstacles, so does Resurrection become a force that defeats the ultimate enemy, death and all its forces in history. The paper deals with a basic concern: how to harness this potential of the faith in the resurrection of the body for a liberative praxis in a multi-religious context. The theological presupposition in this venture is that the Risen Lord, the prototype of the bodily resurrection of all men and women, along with the Holy Spirit, is liberatively present and active among all peoples. While recognizing the specificities of these two salvific activities of the Risen Lord and the Holy Spirit, it is important to see them as one salvific action of the Triune God. Hence it is necessary to affirm that they are co-extensive with each other.

P.R. John in his paper: “Spirit Christology: Indian Views” attempted to develop an understanding of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through Indian theological insights. He showed how Indian attempts to interpret the Holy Spirit as Atman, Antaryamin, Sakti and Ananda indicate that Jesus lived his human life in complete union with God and that Jesus was the permanent bearer of the Holy Spirit.

Henry D’Almeida in his paper: “Christ as Jangama: Towards an inter-religious Christological discourse in the context of Lingayata (Virasaiva) tradition in Karnataka,” articulated an inter-religious Christology by bringing ‘Jangama (a itinerary preacher who energizes the society with a vision of God) into dialogue with Jesus the teacher.

Francis Minj in his paper: “An Adivasi Quest for Jesus Christ” explored the following questions: How would the people of the Sarna communities interpret Jesus Christ? What would be the picture of Jesus Christ portrayed by the ordinary Adivasi Christians (of Jharkhand) And what would be the appropriate method for interpreting Jesus in an Adivasi milieu? After delving deeply into discussion on the responses of his interviews with many Adivasi Christians and Sarna community friends, he tentatively proposed a neologism ‘paramadivasi’ as a metaphor to explicate the reality of Jesus in the Adivasi milieu.

Raj Irudaya in his paper: “Cross Roads of Christology in the Gospels: Towards a confluence of life” argued that the three important strands of Christology in the Gospels, namely, God-centered Christology, Abba-oriented Christology and life-focused Christology lead one to a confluence of a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ.

Samuel Simmik shared his experience of Christ in the devastating Nepal earthquake and described the way Jesuits and others had reached out to people who suffered most.

Victor Edwin, in his paper: “Is Christ a stranger to Muslims? - Constructing a contextual Christology among Muslims” pointed out that the nature of Christ was one of the important sources of polemics between Christians and Muslims. However, he said that it was encouraging to find that within the Islamic traditions, especially in Sufi theosophical and poetical traditions, there are streams offering alternate paths to explore Jesus in a number of new ways that are within the framework of Islam and remain open to further inquiry. These are opportunities for mutual learning and mutual enrichment.

Each presentation was followed by a stimulating theological conversation among the participants that enriched everyone and encouraged the participants to undertake further inquiry into the themes that were presented.

Moreover, after the presentation of all the papers, the participants spent two full sessions reflecting on three important questions or concerns. The first was concerned with methodological considerations for Christology from Indian/South Asian soil; the second question was: “How can Asian theologians reflect on Jesus Christ from the perspective of the Holy Spirit?” and the final question was: “What are Indians saying about Jesus Christ?” 

It was pointed out that in our theological methodology we must give attention to the following four critical areas: ‘critical historicity that leads one to ideological critique’, ‘honest appraisal of one’s own ideological position’, ‘careful consideration of inter-textuality of the Indian fabric’ and ‘making transformative agenda be part of theologizing process’. Our theological process could build upon the work of Indian theologians Kappan, Rayan, Prabhu and Sebastian Painadath Amal. Their way of doing theology has tremendous value for the Indian theological context.  It was also pointed out that our Christologies should be locally relevant and globally effective and that the inter-scriptural approach was very important in Indian theology. It was suggested that we should explore the ways in which we could take up the classical and popular scriptures and discern the movements of the Holy Spirit there. We should not jump into hasty comparisons but go deeply into the Scriptures and traditions. It was also pointed out that, besides the textual approach, the lived experiences of the people were very important. This creative tension has to be maintained. Our tendencies are to take up pan-indian approach. But we need to give more importance to the local context. We need to make more use of sociological tools. The data has to come from lived experience.

Turing to the second concern, while doing Christology, Amaladoss cautioned that we should do not push Christ onto other religions. The Holy Spirit is present in other religions. With reference to the Cosmic Christ, Amal noted that one could talk about the Word without equating the Cosmic Christ with the historical Jesus. Equating the Cosmic Christ with the historical Jesus leads to confusion. He felt that emphasis on the Holy Spirit as the dynamism of God should be developed further. The risen Christ is the Spirit and not the historical Jesus. The action of the Word is different from the action of Jesus.

The distinction between God and divine is a good methodological tool. The distinction between the personal God and the transpersonal divine presence distinction is very helpful. We Christians have access to the personal God through Jesus Christ. We should reach out to other religions and to secular movements with a theonomous rather than christomonistic perspective. This area of theological inquiry needs further exploration.

Turing to “What do Indians say about Jesus Christ?” the participants felt that the papers were largely speculative and did not adequately express real experiences. The risen Christ’s Spirit is the transforming force. What counts is not just individual witness but that of whole community. We need to go further and take the experience of the community into consideration. The papers and discussions of the South Asian Theologians can provide methodological tools and new insights for further theological inquiry for the new generation of theologians in India.


28 Apr 2016 - 07:31

New Delhi : 6 April 2016

120 activists representing around 100 organizations from 12 States have come together at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, for the launch of Lok Manch, which is a national platform for ensuring food security. The launch of Lok Manch was part of a three-day workshop wherein the participants would deliberate on the various entitlements enshrined in the National Food Security Act 2013. The participants will also explore effective strategies to capacitate the grassroots communities in the 12 states enabling them to know, and understand the various provisions 

of the Act and to use them well as rightful citizens. High on the agenda of these activists is a program of leadership formation at the grassroots so that the people would take charge of their lives to live with dignity.

Delivering the keynote address at the three day national workshop, Mr Harsh Mander, Director of the Centre for Equity Studies and a Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India in the Right to Food case, said that one of the major problems confronting India today is the endemic individual hunger. Narrating the instances of people who collect undigested food grains from the dung of the cattle in a piteous effort to satisfy their hunger, he recounted the fact that 80 million tons of food grains are allowed to rot in government storehouses. He went on to say that such a criminal waste was an abomination. He delineated that the right to life enshrined in article 21 of the Constitution of India is not merely a negative right but a positive right bringing within its purview all the entitlements that ensure a dignified human existence for the people. He also emphasised that both food and freedom are basic human needs and that one could not be sacrificed for the sake of the other.  

Speaking on the occasion, George Pattery SJ, Provincial of South Asia, appealed to the participants to give their best and utmost cooperation for the cause of creating a hunger-free India, which he said is an unfinished agenda of the country’s freedom struggle. Jothi who has been ably spearheading the Right to Food campaign in West Bengal for about eight years and who chaired the inaugural session of the three-day workshop seconded the views expressed by both Harsh Mander and George Pattery.

A Hindi version of training resources was released as part of the inaugural session of the workshop. An English version of the same would be released within the next 15 days, it was announced. At the same session, a new website of Lok Manch <> was also released.

Sannybhai, National Coordinator of Lok Manch, said that the new forum would be open to all who are committed to building a secular, democratic, pluralist and inclusive India based on the Constitutional values and to enabling the citizens of India, especially the last and the least, to lead a life of dignity. He said the desired outcome of Lok Manch is that the marginalised take charge of their own lives and the community in which they live and begin to shape their own destiny and history.

Another notable speaker at the workshop was Mr Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court commissioners on the right to food. He articulated the three features of right to food: accessibility, availability and absorption. He also stated that the edifice of right to food is built on the four pillars of entitlements, viz. maternity benefits of women, Public Distribution System, Mid-day Meals Scheme, and Integrated Child Development Scheme.

Joe Xavier, former director of Indian Social Institute, Delhi, described the three objectives of the national workshop: increasing ownership of Lok Manch and building partnership; expanding knowledge of the various aspects of National Food Security Act 2013 – including state variations/ specifics and grievance redress mechanisms; and, understanding various challenges and issues in accessing / implementing the National Food Security Act (NFSA) so they could be overcome ultimately.

Description: C:\Users\JESA Secretariat\Desktop\Lok Manch-April2016\Photos\Selected\Release of Training Resource--Hindi Version.JPG

There was also a panel discussion at which Mr Sachin Jain, Madhya Pradesh State Advisor to Supreme Court Commissioner on Right to Food, Mr Balram, Jharkhand State Advisor, and Mr Raj Kishore, Orissa State Advisor, delineated various aspects of National Food Security Act and they took pains to clarify many doubts of the participants.

The workshop also a few group discussions on how the Lok Manch could be strengthened and expanded in different states. The workshop is a collaborative effort of around 100 organizations. Indian Social Institute in Delhi as well as the Bengaluru-based institute with a similar nomenclature, Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) and Lok Manch Secretariat, Delhi, are hosting the three-day event.

< >Sannybhai

Lok Manch National Coordinator


7 Apr 2016 - 12:00

The city of Homs in western Syria, is the third largest city of the country after Aleppo in the north and the capital Damascus about 170 kms. to its south. Its population consisting of Arabs, Sunni Muslims, Alawites and Christians- reflected the religious diversity of Syria. The city has a number of historic mosques and churches and is not far from the Krak des Chevaliers castle, a world heritage site.

Today Homs is a devastated city: bombed, battered and bruised by five years of a bloody civil war. Thousands have fled their homes to Damascus and even abroad. Many from here have died. For those who stay on in the midst of ruins, skeletal bombed-out buildings in a ghost-town, there is a feeling of hopelessness, of not knowing what to do and where to go. The children smile-but they seized with a fear which is palpable: those five years and below only know war. The youth talk aimlessly-searching for ways and means to escape from a world of hopelessness. The adults are still tongue-tied for any meaningful conversation. Many of them just want to wake up from what they hope –is just a bad dream. Sadly, enough, the tragedy which has gripped their lives is real!

However, there is a sudden   change in the moods of the adults and youth when they talk of one man: Fr. Frans van der Lugt. Their eyes light up, a sense of nostalgia envelops them, as they latch on to the person and message of this great human; because he still lives on in their hearts and minds, some of them do feel that there will be a new dawn!

Who was this ‘Abouna Frans’ as he was fondly referred to? Fr Frans van der Lugt, was a Dutch Jesuit priest who devoted his life to the people of Syria; when civil war erupted there in 2011 he chose to remain in the country, suffering the shortages and terrors of the conflict alongside both Muslims and Christians. He was born on April 10 1938 in The Hague, Netherlands- the son of a banker. He joined the Jesuits in 1959 and seven years later went to the Middle East. With the exception of a short break to complete his doctorate in Psychology, he spent the rest of his life from 1976 in Syria. In Homs he founded the Al-Ard institute, where handicapped children of all religions and ethnic groups found a home –of warmth and acceptance.

His twilight years however were shattered with the civil war. As the fighting intensified, Fr Frans moved to the Jesuit residence in Boustan –Diwan (the inner city). From there he shared the suffering of the inhabitants, refusing to leave, even as that part of the city continued to be bombed from all sides. His centre before long became a home for those who had nowhere to go: Muslims and Christians; women and men; old and young. It was a haven for them and Fr Frans was their refuge. His message to all was one of hope: of mercy and reconciliation, of justice and of peace! Listening to those who knew him, those who experienced his warmth, his love, his courage to give “all-of-himself” to those in need- would easily touch a heartless person.

Because there were several rebels in the old city- that part was under siege. There were no food supplies coming in nor were people being allowed in or out. Though a relatively ‘normal’ life continued just streets away, in the government-held zones, starvation was claiming lives in the rebel enclave. Fr Frans existed on olives and broth fortified with weeds picked off the streets. “The faces of people you see in the street are weak and yellow,” he told a journalist “Their bodies are weakened and have lost their strength.” With his training in psychology, he documented the spread of mental illness among those who found themselves besieged: “I try to help them not by analysing their problems, as the problems are obvious and there is no solution for them here. I listen to them and give as much food as I can.”

Frans was a healer – he touched the broken spirits of a battered people; he did not care for himself, if someone was physically sick, he did all he could (with the little he had) to make them well again. His forte   however, was to soothe the mental and the spiritual suffering they were going through. They sought his guidance and his direction- when they overwhelmed by the brutality around them.

Very ironically he was gunned down on World Health Day, April 7th 2014, by those who felt that this healer had no right to live to heal the brokenness of Homs and Syria. It was just three days before what would have been his 76th birthday. On hearing about his tragic death Muslims and Christians came together despite the hostilities around them – to bury him in the compound of the Jesuit Centre.

Fr Frans is revered as a Saint today by both Muslims and Christians. His tomb is visited today by people from all walks of life. They pray to him: so that he intercedes with his creator that justice and truth triumphs in Syria and in other parts of the Middle-East; for lasting peace and security in the region. They will never forget his words the Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties”. This he did in full measure: he lived with them, he died for them.

On April 9th 2014 Pope Francis at the General Audience in Rome said “last Monday in Homs, Syria, Rev Fr Frans van der Lugt one of my Dutch Jesuit confreres was assassinated at the age 75. He arrived in Syria some 5o years ago and always did good to everyone generously and with love. He was therefore loved and highly esteemed by Christians and Muslims.

His brutal murder has deeply distressed me and has made me think again of the many people who are suffering and dying in that tormented country, my beloved Syria, which for too long has been the prey of a bloody conflict that continues to reap death and destruction. I also think of the many people who have been kidnapped, Christians and Muslims, Syrians and those from other countries, including bishops and priests. Let us ask the Lord that they may soon return to their loved ones and to their families and communities.

From my heart I invite you all to join me in prayer for peace in Syria and the region, and I launch a heartfelt appeal to the Syrian leaders and to the international community: Please, silence the weapons, put an end to the violence! No more war! No more destruction! May humanitarian laws be respected, may the people who need humanitarian assistance be cared for and may the desired peace be attained through dialogue and reconciliation.”

On February 10th 2014 The” Erasmus “blog in The Economist had a powerful article on Fr. Frans entitled ‘A Voice Crying in the Wilderness’- of the courage he demonstrated to tell the world of the pain, hunger and suffering of the people around him; a person who would never desert his people. Two months later the ‘Erasmus’ blog had these very moving words, “by staying in the heart of besieged Homs, during a takeover by rebels who included militant Islamists and then during a government siege, he was offering succour to all victims of the conflict—and a kind of reproach to all the belligerents.

He knowingly risked his life by remaining in a place where some Islamist rebels were active; but he also bore witness to the cruel consequences of the siege by refusing to leave when it would have been so easy to do so, and nobody would have blamed him. From the perspective he offered, all civilian victims were worthy of compassion, and fighters on both sides bore a share of blame. That sounds like a truth worth dying for—and it goes a bit further than religious dialogue.”

In a world torn asunder by violence and   hate; by discrimination and divisiveness; by powerful vested interests who do all they can to destroy the lives of ordinary mortals, Fr Frans is a beacon of hope; not only for the people of Syria-for whom he gave up his life- but for people everywhere –who yearn for a new dawn, a better tomorrow. He was relentless in his struggle to establish that better “tomorrow” for his people. He did NOT succeed in that endeavor. Despite the hopelessness and fear that have gripped their lives, many in Homs and in other parts of Syria are convinced that his martyrdom will not go in vain.

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj
 5th April. 2016
(Fr Cedric Prakash sj works with the Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS) in the Middle East. He recently spent some time in Homs, Syria where Fr. Frans lived and died)


6 Apr 2016 - 11:11

We, the POSA’s Curia community went for a day’s outing to Agra on the 2nd April. The purpose of the visit was to know more about the first Jesuits who were in Akbar’s court. We wanted to see the first Church built by the Jesuits with the help of Akbar. The visit was great in all its aspects. It was memorable, joyful, and gave a sense of Jesuit zeal, commitment, excellence and love for Christ. Thanks to the Arch Bishop Albert D Sousa, who went all out to welcome us and accompany us explaining the rich heritage of Jesuits in Agra Mission.

A Visit to the First Church in Agra

To all visitors, Agra is a Mughal city with the Taj Mahal as its focal point. However our search was to see the evidences of a Christian legacy through the Jesuits that is somewhat unknown to many. It is interesting to know the most significant Christian building in the city bears the somewhat enigmatic name of ‘Akbar’s church’, the Church of Pietà. Thanks to the Archdiocese and archbishop, for modifying the Church in its present form, keeping the original structure intact.


The story of this church dates back to February 18, 1580, on which date a delegation of three Jesuit priests reached Agra for an audience with Emperor Akbar. Portuguese Fathers Fr. Rudolf Acquaviva, Antoine de Monserrate and Francois Henriques had made the long and difficult journey from Goa to Agra. Based on historical accounts, Akbar’s curiosity about different religions had caused him to invite priests from Goa. According to the historian RV Smith, the festival of Christmas would see the Emperor and his nobles come to the church in the morning, followed by ladies of the harem and young princes in the evening.

Akbar the Great spiritual Emperor 

History tells us that Babur's grandson, Jalaluddin Muhammed Akbar, who occupied the throne from 1556 to 1605, consolidated Mughal rule over the whole of northern India, taking in Sind, Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa and Bengal, forming a partnership with the Hindu Rajputs to govern through a centralised bureaucracy with officers of state and provincial authorities under his personal direction.

Akbar always had a quest for Truth and Knowledge. He got the Holy Text of Mahabharata translated from Sanskrit to Persian. He took expressed interest in the religious beliefs of his subjects, especially that of the Muslims and Hindus. He enforced many reforms, including the edict of complete tolerance for all religions. From the mid1570s, he had instituted weekly religious discussions in a specially built structure called the Ibadatkhanch, house of worship. More open-minded than most contemporaries, he invited Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Jain and Zoroastrian scholars to religious discussions. His broad fascination with religions culminated in 1582, in the establishment of the Din-Ilahi, a syncretistic cult incorporating Islamic, Hindu and Christian beliefs.

Jesuit Mission to India

 The Indian mission of the Jesuits lies at the very origin of their Order. St. Francis Xavier, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius was sent to Indies and with that began the Jesuit mission in India. Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit to set  foot on Indian soil on May 6, 1542. He took charge of the College of St. Paul in Goa started in 1541 by a group of Portuguese. Xavier worked in India for 10 years, from 1542 to 1552.  Wherever he went, he plunged himself into charitable  and pastoral work preaching the message of God’s love to people. At the time of his death there were 64 Jesuits in India.










Arch Bishop of Agra Explains to us about the rich heritage of the Jesuits in his Diocese

Jesuits at the Mughal Court

Akbar, the 3rd great Mughal ruler was a religious man, who, in the words of his son, “never for a moment forgot God”. Akbar got his first insight into the Christian character and religion from the actions of two Jesuits – Frs. Antony Vaz and Peter Dias, who had reached Bengal in 1576 at the request of the Bishop of Cochin. Akbar was greatly impressed by this news and curious about the religion, which insisted so much on honest dealings. Soon he sent for Fr. Julian Pereira, Vicar-General of Bengal in 1576, who in turn suggested that he should invite the Jesuits to his court.

In September 1579, Akbar’s ambassador arrived at Goa with a letter, asking for two learned priests to be sent to Akbar’s court. To quote Akbar’s letter: "... I am sending Abdullah, my ambassador, and Dominic Perez (an Armenian Christian, the interpreter) with the request that you will send me two learned Fathers and the books of Law, especially the Gospel, that I may know the Law and its excellence…" He wanted them to provide him and his Muslim and Hindu courtiers with first-hand knowledge about Christian faith.

The invitation elicited great hopes among the Goan Jesuits. The Provincial, Fr. Rui Viccente chose three Jesuits for the project. They were Fr. Rudolf Acquaviva (who later suffered martyrdom at Goa and was declared blessed) who led the mission, Fr. Antony Monserrate and the Persian born Br. Francis Henriques as his companions. They reached Fatehpur Sikri some 110 miles south of Delhi, via Surat and Gwalior on February 28, 1580 and were received with extraordinary warmth and affection by the emperor, whose attachment continued throughout the three years of the duration of the mission. After spending three years in the court, in 1582, Francis Henriques and Monserrate returned back leaving behind Rudolf who stayed for some more time. But in 1583, Rudolf too returned to Goa, thus ending the first Jesuit Mission to the great Mughal Empire.

Fr. Anthony Monserrate is said to be the first Jesuit geographer in India. When the team left Goa for the Mughal mission, he was asked to keep a diary of all events, which he did faithfully, adding greatly to its value by his geographical and astronomical observations. On his journey from Surat to Fatehpur Sikri in 1580, he made a survey and took observations for latitude. When Akbar marched to Kabul in 1581 against his half-brother Mirza Muhammed Hakim, he took Fr. Monserrate along for continuing the tuition of his second son Murad. Akbar encouraged Fr. Monserrate to take observations en route. He, however, showed no interest in the data collected by Fr. Monserrate who kept it with himself even when he returned to Goa. Later in 1804, Francis Wilford of Bengal Engineers made use of Fr. Monserrate’s manuscripts to prepare a valuable map of the countries west of Delhi.

The first Jesuit Mission, brought about a better understanding and dialogue between Islam and Christianity. Art, literature, and history, in India as well as in Europe, benefited by the presence of Jesuit missionaries at Akbar's court. It marked a serious inter religious dialogue in India, which even today Jesuits continue to do.

In 1591, a second mission consisting of Fr. Edward Leitao, Fr. Christopher de Vega and Bro. Stephen Riberio arrived at Lahore on Akbar’s invitation. But it lasted less than a year. The Jesuits soon felt that they were engaged in a futile task and feared that Akbar was manipulating them for his own ends.

Fr. George Pattery, Provincial of South Asia stands near the plaque in which Jesuit martyrs' names are mentioned

Once again after a gap of 13 years, Akbar’s earnest efforts to obtain a replacement were rewarded. In May 1595, Fr. Jerome Xavier (grand nephew of Francis Xavier) accompanied by Fr. Manuel Pinheiro and Bro. Bento de Goes arrived in Lahore on a third mission. This time Akbar gave them permission to open a school and to build churches at Agra and Lahore. Akbar commissioned Fr. Xavier to translate the Life of Christ into Persian as the Dastan-i-Masih. This was completed in 1602.

The Jesuits enjoyed the patronage of Akbar and his son Jahangir; but under Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb this disappeared. Akbar also married an Armenian Christian, Mariam Zamani Begum. Mariam’s sister, Lady Juliana was the doctor of the royal harem. Juliana was given in marriage to Prince Jean Philipe de Bourbon of Navarre of the royal house of France. It is said that Juliana built the first Church at Agra. Akbar had an adopted son, Mirza-Zul-Qarnain (Zulcarnen), first son of Mirza Iscandar an Armenian who was a cavalier at Akbar’s court. Mirza-Zul-Qarnain was the founder of the Jesuit College at Agra.

He was brought up in the palace Queen Mariam, and grew up as the brother and playmate of Jahangir and Shah Jehan. His rise was fast. He was the Governor of Sambar, Mogor, Babrich (Oudh), Lahore and Bengal. Both Jahangir and Shah Jehan had affection for him, appreciated his administrative ability and respected his staunch faith and virtuous life. He was a genuine Christian and was in very good relations with Jesuits Fathers. He built a Church in Mogor and promoted Christianity. He always helped the Jesuits by donating funds. He gave them a large sum of money to purchase a land in Salsette(Mumbai), to the College in Agra and to establish a mission in Tibet.

He freed them when they were imprisoned. On all solemn feats of the year, he would send to the Jesuits large sums of money to be distributed as alms among the poor Christians. He won the admiration of the Jesuits Fathers, and they have left glowing accounts of him. One recod refers to him as the “Father of Mogor Christians” and the “Pillar of Christianity in India”.

Shah Jahan had conflict with the Portuguese so Jesuit fathers were also persecuted. Their release in 1635 was subject to the church being pulled down, which was done – only to be reconstructed in 1636 at the same site. The next blip in the life of the church came when Ahmad Shah Abdali’s troops ransacked the place. In 1769, however, it found another patron in the form of the European adventurer Walter Reinhardt, who helped to rebuild and extend the church. His wife, later known as Begum Samru, was probably baptized in this church.

Arch Bishop shows us the name of Walter Reinhardt. His Grave too is here to see

Tomb of Fr Wendel, SJ behind the Akbar's Church

Father Wendel, S.J., went to India in 1751. In 1764, he drew up a map showing the strategic positions of both the English and Moghul armies and in 1779 created a map and description of the land of the Rajputs and Provinces southwest of Agra. Fr. Wendel was at Agra in 1769 when he persuaded Walter Reinhardt (FG #134336287) to help rebuilt Akbar Catholic Church, which had laid in ruins for over a decade, having been sacked when Agra was besieged by the Persians. Father Wendel was the last surviving member of the suppressed Society of Jesus in North India at the time of his death.


Rapid increase in the number of faithful led to the construction of a new church in 1848. This building, standing close to Akbar’s church and dominating what is now a large complex of church buildings is the imposing Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. Possessing a Baroque exterior at its front, the cathedral from within resembles a magnified version of Akbar’s Church with the same curved ceiling effect, the difference between the two places of worship being the altar. The cathedral today serves as the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Agra.

Our visit was indeed a pilgrimage. It was apt that we decided to go there to explore the great presence of the Jesuits in the Court centuries ago. We felt the Jesuit Magis everywhere.  In the words of Fr. George Pattery SJ, Provincial of South Asia, “the tour was indeed an eye-opener. There is a lot more to explore about the Jesuit contributions during the time of the great Mughals”.  With great satisfaction and a sense of gratitude to God we returned from Agra. Hope the exploration will go on by many more Jesuits in the coming days.



Article by
Fr Sunny Jacob, SJ
Secretary, JEA

Acknowledgement: Jesuits in Akbar’s Court (Article), Goethals’s Library, Kolkata, by Dr. Felix Raj SJ


4 Apr 2016 - 10:03