Father Arrupe’s Return
“The ship of the Society has been tossed around by the waves, and there is nothing surprising in this,” said Pope Francis during a Vespers service in Rome on Sept. 27 that marked the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814, after its suppression by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. The pope urged his brother Jesuits: “Row then! Row, be strong, even against a headwind! We row in the service of the church. We row together!”
Afterward, the pope visited a side chapel to bless a new painting of the “Deposition of Christ,” showing three men removing Christ’s body from the cross. The faces of the men are those of three Jesuits now buried in the chapel, who guided the Society in times of persecution, struggle or misunderstanding. At the top is St. Joseph Pignatelli, S.J. (1737-1811), the Spanish Jesuit who served as a guiding light during the four decades of the suppression. Beneath him is Jan Roothaan, S.J. (1785-1853), superior general during a period when Jesuits were still banished from many countries. Perhaps most notable is the man at Jesus’ feet: Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (1907-91), the superior general who, after suffering a stroke in 1981, appointed a vicar general who was subsequently removed by St. John Paul II and replaced by a Vatican appointee. In response to that decision, Father Arrupe called for obedience from Jesuits worldwide—and received it.
Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis paid a public visit to this small chapel, touched the marble covering of Father Arrupe’s tomb and blessed himself. For many years Pedro Arrupe’s legacy was the object of suspicion within some Vatican circles. Today, however, it is gratifying to see one faithful Jesuit honored by another.
An Unwelcome Sign
They are a familiar sight to drivers everywhere: the posters that dot city streets and country roads providing information on church services. They have long been part of the landscape in many communities, as unremarkable as mailboxes on the sidewalk. But in Gilbert, Ariz., church signs like these are stirring up a hornet’s nest of political, religious and free speech issues that will head to the Supreme Court next year.
The case involves the Good News Community Church, a small Presbyterian congregation that does not have a permanent location and must rely on temporary signs to inform congregants about the sites and times of services. The Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have filed briefs on behalf of Pastor Clyde Reed and his church, protesting what they consider the town’s arbitrary limits on the size and number of church signs.
According to the town code, temporary directional signs must be 70 percent smaller than “ideological” signs and 81 percent smaller than “political” signs. While nonreligious signs may remain up indefinitely, Good News’s 2-by-3 foot signs may stay up for only 14 hours. Town officials cite traffic safety concerns and aesthetics to justify the strictures on church signs. A 32-square-foot political sign left standing for months, however, would apparently be acceptable.
On Sept. 15, A.D.F. attorneys filed their opening briefs with the Supreme Court. “No law should treat the speech of churches worse than the speech of other similar speakers,” said the senior counsel David Cortman. If this case is a sign of the times, it’s a worrying one.
Let Democracy Bloom
Rhetoric on both sides of the confrontation in Hong Kong has ratcheted up dangerously since the Occupy Central students’ campaign for democracy began on Sept. 28. Now student leaders are demanding the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, and on the mainland editorials in party-controlled media have begun to complain ominously that the student demonstration has become a threat to the city’s economy and good public order. The real fear in Beijing is, of course, the impact any democratic liberalization in Hong Kong might have on the mainland, where millions likewise yearn to match China’s vibrant economic development with new political and personal freedoms.
A makeshift Goddess of Democracy statue, a symbol of the long-ago occupation of Tiananmen Square, was raised again by these students, who are just as full of hope and determination as were the young people of 1989. May that be the last comparison to Tiananmen that this most recent campaign for democracy evokes.
If President Xi Jinping is looking for a face-saving way out of the current crisis, he need only review the terms of the Basic Law that led to the July 1997 handover of Hong Kong. Recognizing that the demonstrators in Hong Kong are calling for representation, not revolution, Mr. Xi should embrace their demands and the spirit of the “two systems, one nation” commitment his predecessors made. Article 45 of the Basic Law explicitly supports the universal suffrage that this current generation of young people is demanding on the streets of Wan Chai. He may want to let this one flower of democracy bloom in Hong Kong to learn what fruit it may one day bear for all of China.