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The Intellectual Apostolate - Interview with Father General Adolfo Nicolás, sj

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October 26, 2015

REFLECTION - On September 12, 2015, Father General Adolfo Nicolás spoke to Father John Dardis, president of the European Jesuit Conference on the topic of the Intellectual Apostolate.

Father Dardis:

Father General thank you for giving us the time. The vision for our faculties of philosophy and theology, our universities, our cultural reviews, and similar missions: what does the church expect of us in that area?

Father General:

We should think about what God wants us to do in the universities, rather than what the bishops or the church, in the abstract, expect from us. It is this kind of discernment that is eventually going to help the church. Sometimes, the bishops think that things are fine if Jesuits are present in the university, and while there, they also do some pastoral work. But we are not happy with that. I think that the university is a social institution, as is clearly the evident in Latin America. It follows that the university, as a social institution, has a function towards society, and this is the justification why we are involved in the university apostolate at all. Through the university, we want to help a particular society in its values, in its perspectives, in its vision of what is the good for the people. Therefore, if we are in a university, we should always ask ourselves whether we are engaged in this social function. And then, we should test and check how we are performing it, sometimes through the alumni, sometimes by looking at the results of our education, and sometimes by examining where our students end up. If we are not performing a social function, then we should think about working somewhere else.

Father Dardis:

Picking up on that social function issue, we have a big commitment to philosophy and theology, but what about the whole area of politics, economics, sociology; have you any message for the provincials and major superiors on that issue?

Father General:

Even in the past, the ideal has always been to be present where human problems are present. And it is clear today that the problems of humanity are not theological or philosophical ones. Therefore, we have to prepare people who can be present, intelligently present, in the areas on work: the areas of politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, etc. Therefore, I think our institutions have to make an effort to either prepare Jesuits or to develop a much greater collaboration and cooperation with the laity. Only in this way can we have the right anthropologist, or the right sociologist, or the right economist in the right place. Not anybody, simply because they have a big name, but the right person.

Father Dardis:

And what about influence on politicians, opinion leaders, journalists. Again, we have this great resource in our faculties; philosophy, theology, university, etc. Do you think we are ambitious enough to reach people who really can influence out societies?

Father General:

I think there is a fear in the Society towards politics. We are so afraid to get mixed up in politics, we are even afraid of politicians. And politicians are people like you and me. Why can we not invite them to dialogue, to rethink the vision they have of their political duties? And I think the university is the best place to invite politicians for deeper dialogue, particularly at a time when the political standards in the whole world are falling little by little. We have politicians now who are very concerned about political support, about the next election and so forth, and they do very little for the people, which is supposed to be the main task of a politician. A friend of mine suggested, and I put him in contact with Father Michael Garanzini [Secretary for Higher Education in the Society of Jesus], that we should have fora, that Jesuit universities in particular should be places where politicians can come and talk. And eventually, maybe after a couple of years, those conversations could develop into some kind of institute, still modest, but with a clear social function. And such an institute could develop further, according to what history or what the talents of our people unfold.

 Full Interview


Source: sjweb.info, 20 october, 2015

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