Father Arturo Sosa: ‘Covid-19 reminds us that we are one humanity.’

An Iraqi man wearing a protective face mask gives a bottle of water to a homeless man in Basra on April 2. (CNS photo/Essam al-Sudani, Reuters) An Iraqi man wearing a protective face mask gives a bottle of water to a homeless man in Basra on April 2. (CNS photo/Essam al-Sudani, Reuters) 

“Don’t think of the coronavirus pandemic as a nightmare,” but rather see it as a wake-up call to “the virus of injustice in the world, a virus that was there before Covid-19,” Arturo Sosa, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus, told an international audience of 1,000 Jesuits and laypeople who work with them. The virtual audience joined him for an internet conference on April 2.

Father Sosa called the global coronavirus outbreak “a spiritual and intellectual challenge.” But, he said, “the worst virus is not Covid-19 but the injustice that does not let so very many people live a dignified human life.”

Advertisement

The crisis “makes us see that we are living in a very unjust world,” Father Sosa said, noting contemporary problems of widespread poverty, hunger and the ongoing destruction of our common home.

He suggested that the crisis could be seen as an opportunity, reminding people across the earth that “we are one humanity...showing us that there is no difference in age, race, religion or social status within our one humanity. Each and every one of us is part of it; no one is left out; no one of us can do without the others.”

“The worst virus is not Covid-19,” Father Sosa said, “but the injustice that does not let so very many people live a dignified human life.”

He said the crisis reveals “the competence and generosity of those who are in the front line, caring for those affected, seeking solutions or making difficult decisions for the good of all,” as well as “the sensitivity of so many people or organizations and the enormous reserve of solidarity that exists—in young people, in adults and in the elderly, in all corners of human society.”

Father Sosa addressed the group during an hour-long webinar from the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, speaking on how to live out the society’s four universal apostolic preferences in the face of the conditions created by Covid-19.

He reminded his fellow Jesuits that “listening to the Spirit, trusting in God and allowing ourselves to be guided by him does not exempt us from the effort to understand in depth the causes of this crisis, its consequences and the ways to make it an occasion to advance toward a more just and humane world.”

“We have to take the lesson that if we don’t change [our way of life] after the Covid-19 crisis, the situation will be worse in the future,” Father Sosa said.

He responded to questions from Jesuits in Asia, Africa and Europe, including one who asked, “Where is God in all this?”

Father Sosa said the Covid-19 crisis “will have a huge impact on how we relate to each other; on how we work; on how the world economy is run; on how we pray together.”

Father Sosa responded that God is “the God of Jesus Christ” and “the clearest image we have of him is Jesus on the cross” and when we look for God today “we will find him in those who are suffering in the pandemic. God is there.”

Father Sosa described the present moment, when so many of the world’s inhabitants are in lockdown and isolation, as one of “change and challenge.” He said the crisis “will have a huge impact on how we relate to each other; on how we work; on how the world economy is run; on how we pray together; on how we carry out mission in the Society of Jesus and in the church.”

Since returning from India and Nepal three weeks ago where the pandemic was “still in its infancy,” he said he was struck not so much by the daily reports tracking the coronavirus’ spread as by “the amazing initiatives that are being taken around the world,” from “small acts of kindness that people are showing toward each other...to projects organized by voluntary and state organizations...to the outreach offered by Christian communities, by ourselves and our mission partners.”

These initiatives, he said, “show that we are a church on the move, a church going out to the frontiers, going to where people are wounded and hurting.”

He remarked on the great appreciation throughout the world for “health workers and those on the front line” and rejoiced that Jesuits are “discovering again some key aspects of community life and of service to each other.”

“I dream of a Society of Jesus that can imagine and put into practice great things just like Ignatius, Francis Xavier and so many Jesuits in history right down to the present age.”

The Venezuelan-born head of the Jesuits, the largest religious order of men in the Catholic Church, said that as the coronavirus crisis unfolds “my first thoughts are with the poor and those who are on the margins of our societies, who yet again suffer most.... They have little access to health care if they get sick or to clean water and soap with which to wash their hands.”

Indeed, he said, “for many of the poorest in our world, if they are told to stay indoors or to practice social distancing, this will mean they cannot earn their daily wage. In addition, this, in turn, means they will not have food to put on the table for their family. It can seem like a choice between sickness or starvation.”

He reminded his fellow Jesuits that “these are the men, women and children” that are at the center of the second universal apostolic preference: “to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.”

He assured people “who are thrown aside by society and considered expendable” that “the Society of Jesus does not forget you. We stand with you; we walk beside you. Tell us how we can help you, and we will do our best.”

He recalled this was the mission that Pope Francis gave the Society of Jesus when he confirmed the four universal apostolic preferences.

He counseled fellow Jesuits against being “too cautious and too careful” and reminded them that Pope Francis “wants the church to be a field hospital going out to the places of darkness and danger.”

Father Sosa said Covid-19 “also reminds us of how humanity has exploited our precious planet” and recalled that, according to the fourth preference, Jesuits are called “to work with others to care for our common home.” In his travels worldwide, he has seen “a great desire to work passionately and urgently with others to bring about a change, to act differently, to love and cherish our planet with the tenderness of the Creator.”

The Jesuit leader recalled that young people are at the center of the third apostolic preference: “We need their energy, their insights, their courage, their daring.”

He counseled fellow Jesuits against being “too cautious and too careful” and reminded them that Pope Francis “wants the church to be a field hospital going out to the places of darkness and danger.”

He told them, “I dream of a Society of Jesus that can imagine and put into practice great things just like Ignatius, Francis Xavier and so many Jesuits in history right down to the present age.” He urged them to learn from young people and said that “with over two million students in our schools and universities, this contact with young people is a precious gift to the Society and to the church.”

Father Sosa noted that the Covid-19 pandemic “is bringing great fear and grief. So many have died or are ill. People miss their loved ones and feel alone.”

As Jesuits, he said, “we are doing our best to stand with them even in the midst of many restrictions and limitations. We pray with them; we are with them in solidarity” and also pray for them at daily Mass.

Nonetheless, he said, “even in the darkness and fear,” the Covid-19 crisis “is bringing consolation and lighting up different aspects of the path to God.”

“The Spirit is showing us how even this experience can be part of the journey of humanity to God,” he said, “and with this insight, without denying the suffering, we can help others to find their way to God.”

Father Sosa said the crisis is “showing us the power of faith, the strong bonds that unite believers, the love of Jesus Christ that impels us, reconciles us and unites us.” He noted the “many people praying together on social media,” seeking ways to profess a faith “which they feel in the depths of their hearts and which they cannot keep to themselves.”

He encouraged Jesuits “to continue discerning” the best ways to be close to those in need.

Father Sosa concluded by saying: “We do not know how long this stretch of the road is or what will follow after. We are in this together, we Jesuits, our lay colleagues and our partners in the Ignatian family. We are in this together in solidarity with the whole of humanity and with the amazing and beautiful planet on which we live.

“We want to live this time as an opportunity.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

The judges are Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate court judge in Chicago, and Barbara Lagoa, a federal appeals court judge in Atlanta.
Why are there so many Catholics on the nation’s highest court?
Allyson EscobarSeptember 21, 2020
Ginsburg died at her home in Washington of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
This production of ‘Godspell’ is striving to be the benchmark for a possible future for theater.
Lindsay ChessareSeptember 18, 2020