Pope’s ‘Family Gathering’ with Jesuits of Slovakia

It’s a Tradition in the Holy Father’s Trips to Visit His Brothers

Papa jesuitas Eslovaquia
Pope Francis meets with his Jesuit brothers in Slovakia, September 12, 2021 © Vatican Media

At the end of the day yesterday, September 12, 2021, Pope Francis gathered in private for an hour and a half with 53 brother Jesuits in the Apostolic Nunciature of Bratislava, Slovakia.

Pope Francis with Jesuits in Slovakia, September 12, 2021 © Twitter.Antonio Spadaro

A meeting with members of the Society of Jesus of the local Church is a tradition in the trips of the present Pontiff. According to “Vatican News,” the Holy Father listened to the Jesuits’ questions and asked a few himself. He encouraged them “in their mission in a time of secularization and fall of vocations,” and “he did not seem to be tired even once,” said those who were with him.”

All this despite the intense program of the first day of his 32nd international Apostolic Journey, which led him to preside over the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress and different events in Budapest, Hungary, and then to continue with activities in the capital of Slovakia.

“A Family Gathering”

 “It went very well, in a serene atmosphere,” said Father Jozef Bartkovjak, Head of the Slovak Section of Vatican Radio News and correspondent in Bratislava, who attended the meeting, described as “a family gathering.”

Although Pope Francis had just taken part in the meeting with Slovakia’s Ecumenical Council of Churches, and he had yet to dine, “he was quite fresh.” “He had already done several things, but he was totally present, joking, he was animated. It gave us the impression that we had met with a very dear person, with whom it’s a pleasure to be together, a person that we know, but whom we didn’t know up close. We listened to his words and we were able to say to him whatever we felt like, what we do,” said Father Bartkovjak.

Continue the Mission in Slovakia

 The Pope encouraged the 53 Jesuits present, of the 80 that live in Slovakia, to continue their mission in the country. The latter is carried out through different apostolates, with a special focus on education and formation, in a Faculty of Theology and two Spiritual Exercises Houses, which remained active even during the years of the Communist regime.

Pope Francis with Jesuits in Slovakia, September 12, 2021 © Twitter.Antonio Spadaro

This implies a great stimulus in today’s difficult times, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the secularization that permeates the whole of Europe, and the decrease of the population and of vocations. “In the past, in the underground Church during the Communist regime, the Jesuits gave formation to the new members, it was almost like a hidden novitiate. So, in our province, not one generation was missed; all the years were covered, including during Communism,” explained Father Bartkovjak.

The Holy Father’s Encouragement

 The Jesuit priest didn’t deny the great challenges they are facing at this time; however, “to have so much encouragement from the Pope, who really made us feel his presence, who appreciated what we do despite the difficulties, helped us not to falter.” “In fact, all of us Jesuits, who link our vocation to that of the Successor of Peter, feel our identity reinforced. To be close to the Pope and not feel any blockage was like a caress,” he added.

“Vatican News” pointed out that this gathering was held confidentially, behind closed doors, and without the presence of the media, which enabled it to be more free and familiar. For their part, those that attended did not share the content of their meeting, but they did comment on His Holiness’ state of mind.

“As I already said, it was all very spontaneous. The Jesuits present, but also the Holy Father, asked several questions. We were able to talk about everything, with much freedom.” After a group photo, the meeting ended, and “the Holy Father seemed satisfied,’ and the Jesuits said they were “100% satisfied, in fact, 200% satisfied.”

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester