Jesuits open their General Congregation, and the altar of St. Ignatius in the Gesu

This just in from a very interesting website set up for the Jesuit General Congregation, which opened today:

General Congregation

Press Release – January 3, 2008
The opening Mass of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will take place at 10:00 a.m. Monday, 7 January, at the Gesù Church.

The concelebrated Mass will be presided over by His Eminence Franc Cardinal Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who will deliver the homily. Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus will assist at the altar.

After the Mass the remains of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, which are housed under the altar at the right side of the church, will be venerated, and a lamp will be lit and will remain burning during the time the Congregation meets. Similar lamps will be lit in Jesuit chapels throughout the world as a symbol of the continuous prayer for the success of the Congregation.

The Mass is open to all who wish to join the 225 members of the Congregation.

Photographers and television crews who plan to attend the Mass are requested to apply for a permit via email before noon Sunday, 6 January indicating the number of the crew and specifying the type of permit: still photography or television. E-mail: On Monday, 7 January photographers and television crews are to register at the entrance to the Gesù Church by 9:30 am. They will be escorted to the location set aside for them. They will stay in this location for the entire ceremony.

The General Congregation will have its first formal meeting the afternoon of Monday, 7 January. No press coverage is planned. The first phase of the Congregation (scheduled to last approximately 10 days) will be private and communication about it will be minimal. After the election of the new Superior General, the second phase of the Congregation begins. Daily communiqués are planned.

A visit to the “aula” where the 225 members meet is being considered. Information about this and other points of interest will be available from 8 January on the webpage:


The altar is considered a masterpiece of Brother Andrea Pozzo, S.J. (1642-1709) who succeeded in giving a visual expression to the basic elements of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. The Trinity, the Incarnation, the monogram of the name of Jesus, the mission of the Society and many other elements of Ignatian spirituality are represented. Presiding over Br. Pozzo symbolic creation is the statute of the Saint, originally cast in silver. The statue was lost during the French Revolution and replaced in 1798 by an imitation with stucco head, hands and legs within the original chasuble.

According with the artistic tendencies of the time, Pozzo conceived the altar as a dramatic presentation composed of various scenes. Following the taste of the day, he created a piece of cloth which usually concealed the statue of Saint Ignatius. On given occasions, by means of a clever mechanism, the cloth would slide down and the statue would appear in all its splendour. This piece of cloth has great artistic value. The passing of time and the humidity of Rome caused the cloth to deteriorate; but now it has been restored.

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  1. RBrown says:

    If I remember correctly:

    Facing the apse, the relics of St Ignatius are on the left side of the church. The right side of the Gesu has the relics of St.Francis Xavier.

  2. Sid Cundiff says:

    The Pozzo Altar is indeed a masterpiece. I pray the restoration was well done.

  3. woodyjones says:

    Check out Cardinal Rode’s homily, Father, over at “Whispers”. It is also now on along with a contrasting homily given by him to the Regnum Christi Movement last year.

    On a quick look, the address to the Jesuits appears to be a talk from a Dutch uncle (Croatia must foregive me).

  4. woodyjones says:

    Sorry, I guess it is Slovenia; another great former Crown Land of the Habsburgs

  5. joe says:

    Speaking for myself, I am praying a Novena to the Sacred Heart for the Society of Jesus at this crucial crossroads, that they may turn towards Christ and His Church and embrace steadfastly its teachings with reverence, humility and obedience.



  6. Derik Castillo says:

    Is it possible to know if the Mass will be
    according to the Extraordinary Form?

  7. T. Chan says:

    St. Ignatius pray for us and your order!

  8. Matt Q says:

    Quite telling although it seems quite odd no one has said anything of the sort until now… ??

    8-January-2008 — Catholic World News Brief
    Blunt Vatican Challenge to Jesuit Leaders

    Rome, Jan. 8, 2008 ( – A top Vatican official offered some blunt criticism of the Society of Jesus as the 35th General Congregation of the Jesuits began.

    Cardinal Franc Rode, the prefect of the Congregation for Religious, was the principal celebrant at a Mass in the Gesu, the famous Jesuit church near the Vatican, where 225 Jesuit delegates are meeting this month to elect a new superior. In his homily the cardinal challenged the Jesuit delegates to correct a critical attitude toward Church authority.

    “With sadness and anxiety I also see a growing distancing from the hierarchy” among the world’s Jesuits, Cardinal Rode said. He challenged the order’s leaders to embrace the tradition established by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who had insisted on loyalty to the Church and the Roman Pontiff.

    The cardinal said:

    Consecration to service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration to service to the Church. Ignatius and his first companions considered it thus when they wrote the formula of your Institute in which the essence of your charism is spelled out: “To serve the Lord and his Spouse the Church under the Roman Pontiff.” It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the sensus Ecclesiae.

    Cardinal Rode began his homily by praising the outgoing Jesuit superior, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who is resigning after 24 of leadership. Citing the words of St. Ignatius, the Slovenian cardinal said that the new superior, to be chosen by the General Congregation, should be “a man very united to the Lord our God and familiar with prayer.”

    The cardinal also acknowledged one of the themes that many Jesuits have raised for discussion during this month’s meetings at the Gesu: the prospects for broader collaboration with the laity as the number of active Jesuits continues to fall. The Vatican official only cautioned the delegates to ensure that “the growing participation of laity in your activities does not obscure your identity but rather enriches it.”

    When he spoke directly about the Jesuit identity, however, Cardinal Rode’s words were sobering. “Without the gift of faith in the Church there can be no love for the Church,” he told the delegates, returning to the theme of unity between the Jesuit order and the Catholic hierarchy.

    To underline that theme, the cardinal mentioned one particular challenge for Jesuits in their work of education and evangelization. He called particular attention to “the need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition.”

    Explaining the importance of that issue, Cardinal Rode again made an implicit criticism of Jesuit scholars whose theological novelties have caused confusion among the faithful. He said:

    The doctrinal diversity of those who at all levels, by vocation and mission are called to announce the Kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits. There is one truth, even though it can always be more deeply known.

    Cardinal Rode concluded his challenge to the Jesuit delegates with the assurance that he would join them in prayer for the success of their deliberations. He urged them to continue leading the Society fo Jesus along “the same path trodden by Ignatius from Loyola to Rome, a path of generosity, of penance, of discernment, of prayer, of apostolic zeal of obedience, of charity, of fidelity to and love for the hierarchical Church.”


    Wonder if those delegates just sat there and yawned.

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