“Against any temptation of confusion and defeatism, it is good to return to feel the paternal spirit of those who preceded us . . . . They teach us to choose consolation in moments of greatest desolation.”—Pope Francis
In 1987, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentinean Jesuit (now better known as Pope Francis), published a small collection of letters by Jesuit Superiors General from the eighteenth century—a time of grave suffering for the Society of Jesus, as it faced suppression by the Vatican. These letters outline a spiritual path for the church as a whole in times of “confusion and tribulation,” focusing especially on the practice of discernment. Pope Francis has many times recommended this little volume, which also sheds light on his own manner of coping with divisive criticism.
Now, with the cooperation of Jesuit colleagues, Pope Francis has authorized this new edition of the letters, adding his own reflections on a contemporary situation of extraordinary tribulation for the people of God: the scandal of sexual abuse by priests. In these letters to the bishops and to the people of God in Chile, the pope offers some of his most profound reckoning with this scandal, while also offering a personal guide for the pilgrim church in a time of tribulation.
Pope Francis, a member of the Society of Jesus and the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected pope in 2013. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., an Italian Jesuit, is editor-in-chief of the Jesuit-affiliated journal La Civiltà Cattolica. Diego Fares, S.J., an Argentinean Jesuit, is a member of the editorial board of La Civiltà Cattolica.