The Black Pope - Part Two

For, as we are increasingly aware, the structures of human life in common are of different kinds, not only economic and political, but also cultural and religious; all of them condition human life, all of them can weaken or destroy it, and all of them are capable of being impregnated by the Gospel and of embodying a greater justice and charity. So it is worth paying unflagging attention to the different aspects of the contexts in which we find ourselves, lest we end up oblivious of the changes developing or out of touch with them.

7. These are some reasons why, after GC34, the social apostolate began a world-wide examen. It was deemed necessary to organise the 1997 Naples Congress in an effort to give new impetus within the Society to the social apostolate as a sign of our full commitment to the social dimension of our mission. Among some promising results of the process, programmed for 1995-2005, the following seem especially significant.

One is the importance of elaborating the characteristics of the social apostolate at the level of the universal Society and of adapting them at the local level. Such characteristics provide the framework for continually discerning, in creative fidelity to the social dimension of our charism, what the Spirit calls us to in the ever different poverties and injustices of the world. Some of the many insights and questions needed in this sense find expression in the working draft Characteristics of the Social Apostolate. Since the current draft is taking much longer to revise than foreseen, everyone is encouraged to send in comments and suggestions towards a definitive edition of these Characteristics, after study and discussion in communities and groups.

While each commitment can and must be very specific, we need to keep in mind the various levels of action and reflection which are involved, as the well-known expression "local/global" suggests. These levels go from the apparently simplest contact with and service to the poor at the grass-roots, through every sort of human development and promotion, to working for far-reaching change in structures nationally and internationally.

As we keep working at different levels, we also want to become aware of and remain up-to-date on how complex and changing are the injustices and the socio-cultural structures in today's world. This requires bringing a plurality of viewpoints to bear on problems and employing multiple ways of reading society and doing things there.

Finally, experience has taught us to ground our social commitment squarely upon the foundation of our Ignatian spirituality and our Jesuit tradition, both of which