Solidarity and consolation – The Society of Jesus within the COVID-19 context
April 7, 2020
Here in the Jesuit Curia in Rome, life has taken up a new rhythm with the advent of COVID-19. Less travel, more desk work. Less meetings face to face; more use of virtual media. Work goes on and the governance of the Society is going forward. Father General is at his desk daily and, as well as his normal schedule, he has been receiving the accounts of conscience of those in the Curia community.
Governments are learning how to deal with this situation from the experiences of China, Korea and Italy. Reactions are faster and the preparations that have been made are having more impact. We are concerned about the impact on the poor. Wealthy countries and wealthy individuals can afford the best medical care – but even their resources are stretched; how much more will it be impossible for countries with fewer resources. If the virus is not stopped by a global effort… it is the poor who will come out worst.
In Italy, the government has given good leadership, outlining a vision of solidarity and appealing to people’s sense of patriotism. The response has been moving and consoling. So there is hope, just now, even though the country is in lockdown with very strict rules. Northern Italy, however, remains in crisis.
Some of you have asked us to give indications about how many Jesuits have been affected directly by the virus all over the world. We want to be transparent but our information is very scattered and everything is changing on a daily basis. Also, we want to avoid the focus being on us Jesuits but rather on our mission and on the consolation we are trying to bring to others.
The economo generale of the Society is monitoring the impact on investments and our resources trying to plan ahead and to see what effects this issue will have on our ability to reach out apostolically. A crisis committee in the curia meets almost daily to look at internal and external issues.
Amid all this, there is much consolation to be found and daily acts of heroism that this situation is calling from each of us in small and big ways. What would St Aloysius Gonzaga and other saints who fought plague and disease do in this situation? Would they go out into the streets, ministering to the sick and homeless? Or, knowing what we do know about how a virus spreads, would they find other ways to be present and to bring the consolation of Christ? Some Jesuits work in hospitals using all the needed protection. Others are offering accompaniment by phone. There are countless other initiatives; we are creating a special section of our website to highlight them. The Word of God needs to be preached in season and out. Our mission, since the foundation of the Society of Jesus, is to do exactly that, bringing the consolation, hope and healing of the Risen Lord.