Can a Jesuit become Pope

Jesuit : Dreaded elite troop of the Pope

They are the “smart guys”, and for some they are the reactionary, for others the progressive elite of the Catholic Church. Sometimes their severity is praised, sometimes scolded. But one thing sticks to the order of the Jesuits, which was founded in 1534 by a circle of friends around Ignatius von Loyola in Paris, to this day: It is considered inscrutable and influential. The mysterious image of the order may be due to the personality of Ignatius of Loyola himself. The son of a noble Basque family initially made a career in the military before he had apparitions of God, gave up all property and took the vow of poverty. His contemporaries describe him as an extremely closed man who showed little emotion. Anyone who meets Jesuits in Berlin today, in the Canisius College or in the Refugee Forum in Charlottenburg, meets urbane, open men who also do not wear religious clothes.

The core of Jesuit piety consists in the retreats, spiritual experiences in which the followers of the “Society of Jesus” meditate on their faith and personal bond with Jesus Christ. Their vows include celibacy, poverty and obedience, and absolute obedience to the Pope as well.

During the Counter-Reformation, with which the Catholic Church reacted to the Protestant Reformation, the Jesuits were feared everywhere in Europe as the Pope's almost military-strict fighting force, as the “soldiers of Christ”. The first German Jesuit was Petrus Canisius. He joined the order as the eighth member in 1543 and drove the Counter Reformation in Germany.

The more the Jesuits spread, the more monstrous the conspiracy theories, in which they were alleged to infiltrate all royal courts, among other things. In the 18th century the order was banned in a number of European countries and finally also by the Pope, and later allowed again. In the 20th century, the order increasingly distanced itself from restorative tendencies and opened up to the modern age. Father Alfred Delp was executed in Plötzensee for his resistance to National Socialism. Fathers like Karl Rahner significantly influenced the reforms within the Catholic Church in the 1960s. Today the Jesuits are by their own account the largest Catholic order in the world with 22,000 members. It is a purely male order.

Since Ignatius von Loyola was particularly concerned with “pastoral care for the youth”, the first “college” was founded during his lifetime. In the centuries that followed, the Jesuits had a great influence on the European educational landscape - initially as anti-enlightenmentists. Today the order's 2,400 schools worldwide are committed to a comprehensive humanistic ideal of education. Jesuit pedagogy is based on four principles: Appreciation of the individual, ability to reflect, commitment to justice, and keeping alive the question of God. Compulsory religious instruction, church services, practicing in retreats and also the opportunity to go to confession are part of everyday school life.

A special feature of the Jesuit colleges is that in addition to the teaching of the classic subject matter, the practice of social skills plays an important role. In separate youth centers on the school premises, older students learn with younger ones, guided by the fathers, to think about themselves and their role in relation to others, and they train self-confidence. This includes recognizing your own limits and defending yourself when these are exceeded by others. To be able to learn this presupposes that, of course, the teacher also respects the limits of the young person. To take advantage of the pupil's dependence, even to pacify one's own instincts, is therefore the worst betrayal a priest can commit against Jesuit pedagogy.

Many sons of noble families attended Jesuit schools as early as the 18th century. Representatives of lower social classes were able to advance socially with the help of the training and even get into government offices. CDU politician Heiner Geißler is one of the most well-known graduates in Germany today.Claudia Keller

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