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from issue no. 11 - 2003

Courageous Father Martina

Giulio Andreotti

Father Giacomo Martina with a copy of his latest book History of the Society of Jesus in Italy (1814-1983), published by Morcelliana

Father Giacomo Martina with a copy of his latest book History of the Society of Jesus in Italy (1814-1983), published by Morcelliana

The review in Civiltà Cattolica of the book by Father Martina on the Storia della Compagnia di Gesù in Italia (1814-1983), [History of the Society of Jesus in Italy (1814-1983)] ends with a very eloquent phrase: «One could think he performed his task ruthlessly, if he had not instead done it in fidelity to his own conscience as man and historian, as well as to his own vocation».
In effect, in the reconstruction of a long period, going from the recovery after the suppression up to the “generalship” of Father Arrupe, the chronicle unfolds in a detailed alternation of important issues (such as the relations between the Jesuit Curia and the Vatican) and of attitudes of individual Jesuit priests inside and outside the order. Always with the precision and calm of this great historian.
In the background there is the analysis of the continual quest for points of agreement between modernity and tradition. The Father General Janssen seems to have been an intransigent and rather closed-minded custodian of the latter, while with Father Arrupe – a survivor of the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima – the qualitative leap went perhaps beyond the bounds.
I read the four hundred and twenty seven pages with growing attention keeping three points of view in mind: the debitum I have toward the Society for my training; its relations with politics; the very questionable characteristics of some Jesuit fathers.
I was schooled – as a war orphan - in public institutions. One day I was able to tell Fidel Castro, whose dialectical subtlety I appreciated, that he beat me because he had studied with the Jesuits. However I did get from the Fathers three supplements to my training. The first in the students’ Missionary League, where, apart from amazement and admiration for the distant Churches, one learned to know the real world, well beyond geography books; and with instances of true specialization. Each of us was entrusted with an area on which to report at the end of the year. So, when, after the war, Indochina became a thorny problem, I was able to cause surprise by referring back to my little paper of 1936.
I also remember some very good conferences of the Missionary League in Mondragone and Aquila, led by Father Haeck, by Father Eugenio Pellegrino (not to be confused with his twin Francesco) and by the brilliant professor Enrico Medi.
Another formative element was the “Mater Amabilis” Marian Congregation, spiritually directed by a prelate from the Secretariat of State - Monsignor Antonio Colonna - but held in the old Jesuit novice house of Sant’Andrea. One saw an internal democracy and the prefect was elected by the members of the Congregation in a secret vote. There, a step away from the Quirinal, I took part in and won my first elections.
Various professors from the Gregorian University came to help Monsignor Colonna. I remember the Austrian Father Ludwig Naber and the Italian Father Agostino Tesio. When Monsignor Colonna died, the Jesuit Father Giampietro replaced him: a cultured and very pastoral priest.
The General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Borgo Santo Spirito, close to Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the statue of Jesus in the garden

The General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Borgo Santo Spirito, close to Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the statue of Jesus in the garden

There was no political colouring to the Mater Amabilis. Monsignor Colonna told us two curious details about the Lateran Pacts in 1929. It was he, skilled in math, who updated the bookkeeping of the compensation that had been refused after the taking of Rome and that Italy then paid. As authoritative minutes-taker he had also participated in the ceremony at the Lateran Palace, with the task of using the blotter on the signatures of Gasparri and Mussolini.
Whereas in a nearby Congregation, the “Prima Primaria”, in the Oratory of the Caravita, the infiltration of Catholic communists was such as to lead to the expulsion of Father Giuliano Prosperini from the Society.
The third incisive element for me was acquaintance with some Fathers, beginning, very young, with Father Garagnani, in his stupendous lectures, up to the meetings - some very intense and sometimes argumentative – linked to the course of my long public life.
When I was boy, a Jesuit who met me at Anagni, where I went on a trip from Segni with Angelo Felici and Vincenzo Fagiolo (future cardinals), tried to attract me to the Society. But I had no bent for ecclesiastical celibacy and Father Bitetti, the Rome Provincial, soon gave up the idea of taking me to Galloro. Whereas, more or less in that period and with fine development in their ministry, Bortolotti, Pappalardo and Davazali joined the Society. That of Felice Ricci was a belated vocation, matured in the Missionary League, and his exhortations – very simple compared to the learned ones I had heard from Father Venturini and Father Miccinelli – stirred liking and opened prospects for life.
At high school the dominant feeling among the teachers was not largely favorable to the Jesuits, with the exception – but as Greek scholar - of the authoritative Father Rocci and his dictionary. Critical reference to events during the Risorgimento weren’t in truth much analyzed, but they occurred frequently.
I went back to the issue very much later, deepening my knowledge of Pius IX through the reading of Father Martina’s fundamental work. The Jesuit Father also returns to the theme in the essay I’m reviewing. In it he narrates that on the eve of the breach in the Rome defenses at Porta Pia the Pope told the royal envoy Count Ponza: «I am no prophet nor child of prophets, but I tell you that you won’t get in or if you do get in you won’t stay». I don’t know if the forecast can be linked – but after a long wait - to the expulsion of the monarchy seventy-six years later. At all events the royal palace of the Quirinal was not auspicious for the ruling house: Vittorio Emanuele II died before Pius IX, aged only fifty-six; Umberto I was assassinated; Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto II died in exile. And that was it.
It is known of Count Ponza that he had a Jesuit brother, Alessandro; and the same feature is brought out about Garibaldi’s follower, Nino Bixio: his brother Joseph engaged in an active apostolate in California and Australia. It is these alluring observations that make Father Martina’s prose so lively.
But the founding of Civiltà Cattolica was also the work of Pope Mastai Ferretti; and for almost two centuries information of extreme interest has been unfolded in the complex and dynamic semi-official magazine (the proofs are checked by the Secretariat of State). The initial feeling of opposition to the Italian government that had usurped a part of the Papal States was to last, but with a symptomatic up-and-down tone, well after the Piedmontese seizure of Rome. The board of editors in Via Ripetta is not used to charging into dangerous bends; the only exception occurred in October 1922 towards the new fact of the Mussolini government, which the Pope who came from Milan did not find displeasing prejudicially. The venerable editor Father Rosa did, however, maintain all his reservations; so much so as to be considered an enemy to be especially watched by the Fascist police. We will see the… recompense with his fellow Jesuit Tacchi Venturi.
Nevertheless a certain independence of judgment never failed. For example, Father Brucculeri seemed for a long time attracted by corporatism, but was always careful not to join the flock of propagandists of the Fascist period.
And in doctrinal debates, rather than echoing the thinking of the Society Civiltà Cattolica mirrored the directives of the Vatican (N.B. not always the same thing as the Pope’s personal views; as is obvious in the case of the controversial Abbot Rosmini).
I met Father Rosa only once to discuss a university problem. I felt sorry for the facial neuralgia that was tormenting him but he paid me great attention and gave me precious advice about how to deal with communist Catholics without witch-hunting or ostracising individuals. Father Rosa was followed by Father Rinaldi and then Father Martegani, a subtle diplomat and perfect priest. On several occasions he mediated between the intransigence wanted by higher levels toward Italian politicians of Catholic conviction and the intelligent understanding of difficult situations, seen from close-to. Father Martegani was responsible for the far-seeing move to Villa Malta , a highly desirable address and a rare location for quiet thinking in the very center of Rome. He then moved to the General Curia where he had important responsibilities. What is extraordinary is the diversity of human types to be found among the editors. Father Sorge, for example (I didn’t meet Father Gliozzo), seemed concerned not to invade political spheres, but in fact he devoted himself to developing in his own way the “follow-on” to a Christian Democracy he felt was tottering. His personal contacts were intense. A notable personality – Giovanni Spagnolli, already President of the Senate – decided to retire from political life after hearing his advice. In a meeting at Villa Malta I myself had the impression of receiving an analogous suggestion. I didn’t follow it and perhaps I did wrong. I’d have spared people their great many efforts to get rid of me.
After the brief pontificate of John Paul I (who thought of appointing him his successor in Venice: the source for that is certain), Father Sorge left Rome and was destined to Palermo, where he strove to support a new direction for Italian politics. But Sicily is a special region not only by constitutional ordinance. The local community of Jesuits, though tiny, witnessed the clash of the leaders of two opposite trends. Father Noto, director of a moderate social studies center, was a very good friend of Salvo Lima; while Father Pintacuda led, along with Leoluca Orlando, the opposing Christian Democrat grouping, progressive at least in its declarations. Without openly taking one side or the other, Father Sorge begins to shape a third way, with an opening for the so-called left independents; but after a few years he left the deep south for Milan, to edit Aggiornamenti Sociali. In the meantime he encouraged studies on past experiences and also stimulated thinking on a new way of dealing with politics: according to a scheme sketched out in its main lines and in the intention of its being worked-out unhurriedly.
After Father Sorge, Father Tucci was called to edit Civiltà Cattolica, a man of great human communicativeness and politically extra partes. Given the new direction of the Church, with the Pope’s apostolic journeys, able collaborators were needed for the preparatory stages, both organizational and cultural. The former task was given to the American Bishop Monsignor Marcinkus (later involved, in my view unjustly, in Vatican banking-related quarrels and now an exemplary priest caring for souls in Arizona). Father Tucci – now Cardinal, resident at Villa Malta – took on, with great delicacy and openness toward the characteristics of the countries visited and the local hierarchies, the intellectual and political preparation for the papal visits.
An illustration by Achille Beltrame showing Pius XI with Benito Mussolini at an audience on 11 February 1932

An illustration by Achille Beltrame showing Pius XI with Benito Mussolini at an audience on 11 February 1932

At present the editor of the magazine is Father Salvini: young, untouched by para-political aims, very open intellectually, but never mentioned in the newspapers. There are updates and points of great interest for the life of the Church and the events of the world in each issue. The faith-science relationship is also dealt with in extraordinary depth and with open-mindedness. The semi-official character is certainly less marked than it was; but this serves a more dialectical and objectively attractive guiding mission.

A second aspect of Father Martina’s book concerns the Jesuits’ relationship with the evolution and the involutions of Italian politics, in the situation after the Second World War as well. The new times freed the Fathers both from century-long involvement in disputable issues, such as the tormented post-temporalist argument, and from the sometimes acrobatic behavior in response to the restraints of an Italian dictatorial system. Benevolent attention was required toward the political party of avowed Catholics, but no more. The matter of Pius XII’s attitude toward De Gasperi also comes in here. In a review of a book of mine Father Martina has observed that I try to minimize the differences; and perhaps it’s true, given feelings of affection toward the one-time Premier of Italy and of great devotion to Pope Pacelli at the same time, not least to redress the many unfair criticisms that continue to be levelled at him.
Pius XII’s admiring judgement of De Gasperi’s personal high moral qualities is expressed in the address to him at the audience for the twentieth anniversary of the Lateran Pacts, recorded by him with care. Nevertheless the Pope didn’t like government collaboration with avowed secularists nor did he judge democratic anti-communism sufficient. From the papers of the then monsignor (later cardinal) Pietro Pavan, who carried out a mission to De Gasperi entrusted him by the Pontiff in 1952, we learn that he was asked to explain why we had not done like the Germans in outlawing the Communist Party. The papal blessing for the unwise, so-called Sturzo Operation, again in 1952, is to be seen in this context. The depoliticization of the Rome administrative elections had been decided by bringing together in an anonymous list right-thinking Christian Democrats, Monarchists and members of the Italian Social Movement (MSI). Apart from the scarce interest shown by the Right itself, the Pope’s support was immediately withdrawn when I managed to send him – through faithful Mother Paschalina – a note on the disastrous outcome the event would have for the survival of the De Gasperi government. I shall speak in a moment of the part played in the mess by Father Riccardo Lombardi about whom Martina has – and expresses – very harsh opinions.
The following year, 1953, De Gasperi was on the point of collapse because of abandonment by his historical allies, toward whom the electorate had been, to use Saragat’s expression, “cynical and treacherous”. The eigth De Gasperi government lost the vote of confidence and was replaced by the single-party Pella administration voted in by both houses with the support of the Monarchists, who had denied it instead to De Gasperi. And here Father Giuseppe Messineo, not just loud in praise of the new prime minister but a critic who lambasted all De Gasperi’s policies in a fierce article, enters the game as political adviser.
De Gasperi had shared Einaudi’s idea of handing over government to the Minister for the Treasury almost as to non-party experts. And he wanted me to stay at the Viminal precisely as a sign of continuity. But a strange coalition formed in favour of Pella, with daily eulogies in praise of the strong man: the enthusiasm exploded when the government, taking seriously a news agency report attributing aggressive intentions to Marshal Tito, ordered soldiers to be deployed on the eastern frontier. Unfortunately the Minister of Defense Taviani also fell into the trap, making him back Pella’s adventurism at the time, which reached its climax in a speech on the Capitoline that stirred up dangerous nationalist feeling. De Gasperi asked in vain that at least the decision to present to Parliament the ratification of the Treaty for the European Defense Community be announced on the occasion.
Some weeks later a quarrel exploded between the government and the two Christian Democrat parliamentary groups. In Pella’s proposed reshuffle the Honorable Aldisio was designated Minister of Agriculture: a perfect democrat and draftsman of the Statute of Autonomy for Sicily. In fact the choice appeared as the antithesis, or at least a notable corrective, to the reforming policies of Segni: this led to the Christian Democrat veto, aggravated by the stance of the Quirinal that, not taking account of the fact that the “vote of confidence” was in their hands, challenged the parliamentary groups right to exclude candidates.
Acting with realism Pella did not react in unyielding fashion, despite the prodding of Father Messineo to «stand firm, since they’ll have to come on their knees to apologize». The labyrinths of political life are complicated and sometimes intangible even for those who are at home there. Impromptu adviser to the prince, good Father Messineo exercised baneful influence. Meanwhile it wasn’t De Gasperi nor the Christian Democrat deputies and senators who were undermining the interim government but the former allies in governments of the DC who were regretting having put themselves out of the game by torpedoing De Gasperi. They got no response from De Gasperi himself, while the plan to restore the four-party coalition – numerically possible even if with a narrow margin – was being worked on intensely by Mario Scelba, who in a speech in Novara set fire to the powder keg. De Gasperi had not been forewarned and did not approve of the manoeuvre. To blame him for getting rid of Pella is historically false. However Scelba, who in truth in July 1953 had been treated badly (with the shift – that he refused – from the Interior to Defense) did not benefit immediately from Pella’s liquidation. Within the DC there was very strong resentment against Saragat and the others who had dug De Gasperi’s grave. And not a few wondered why the penitent former allies didn’t back the return of De Gasperi to the head of government (a state of mind in part real, but largely pretext). Thus Fanfani was entrusted with forming a single-party government that, according to short-sighted advisers, would gain a truce with both the Monarchists and the Socialists. To my great surprise and concern, Fanfani wanted me at the Ministry of the Interior and he went to De Gasperi to ask him to convince me.
Fanfani, a man of extraordinary dynamism, introduced the novelty of presenting at one and the same time the government and draft legislation for the actuation of its program. But the promised backing turned out to be flimsy. A few hours before his policy speech I went to tell him that I was glad I’d accepted because otherwise he might believe I didn’t want to share in the defeat. He was amazed at my pessimism and I in turn said that if my information on failure turned out to be inaccurate I was not fit not only to be Minister of the Interior, but even to be a member of Parliament. Who had guaranteed him support I don’t know; but certainly intense contacts – direct and second-hand – he had had over the last days with both Pietro Nenni and Alfredo Covelli.
Through these two troubled experiences and Pella’s administrative, so to speak, interregnum, Legislature was to arrive at a certain stability. And Scelba was the natural candidate. Father Messineo was forced to acknowledge that nobody had gone on pilgrimage to ask Pella’s forgiveness for the Aldisio affair.
Pius XII

Pius XII

De Gasperi, though in very ragged physical condition, devoted himself intensely to European problems and to stiffening the Christian Democrats. Scelba and Fanfani (government and party) were elements of stability; but within the Christian Democrats opposing ferments were at work that at the national Congress in Naples at the end of June were only settled in appearance. With an immense physical effort, De Gasperi spoke for many hours, dictating a genuine politico-moral testament.
In the meantime, however, De Gasperi himself was aware of the existence of subtle maneuvers against him, inspired perhaps by the fear of his possible candidacy in 1955 to succeed Einaudi.
The “letter trap” in which Guareschi fell about a request of his to the Allies in 1944 for them to bomb Rome fits into this picture. But there was unfortunately also an article in Civiltà Cattolica in the March of that 1954 under the solemn title of Catholics and political life, written by Father Messineo but with a declared personal accreditation from the Pope.
Rarely have I seen De Gasperi so bitter. He called me in the early morning to Castel Gandolfo and I found him extremely agitated. He had prepared some files of polemical notes of comment and charged me with writing an article in firm reply to the priest.
Once before, immediately after the Liberation, I had written under his dictation, describing the DC as a center party moving toward the left, a phrase that entered political historiography. But here it was different. All the resentment for the many misunderstandings and inroads was seething in him. And the presumed politicians and invaders of our territory needed to be called to order. The semi-official character of Civiltà Cattolica was obvious as never before. The direct clarification with the Holy Father about which he had shown willingness to Monsignor Pavan had not taken place.
And yet he had clearly said what his attitude would be in the three possible situations. If the Pope believed in the worth of his thesis, very good. If he said that he left him his specific responsibility for the guidelines, good again. If instead he expressed his dissent, he De Gasperi, a practising Catholic, would stand aside. More than that was impossible.
To see himself now challenged in everything was too much.
I told him – and that’s how it was– that I still hadn’t read the article and that I would devote myself with care to the drafting of the reply. I knew that, letting a day pass, his rightful anger would soften and a less polemical reply could ensue. So it was. On the next day I returned to Castel Gandolfo and I was able to suggest that it would be better to renounce giving answer. In truth Father Messineo’s article was know-all and presumptuous, but not so politically offensive as had seemed to him.
The message of greeting of Pius XII to Alcide De Gasperi on the occasion of his visit to the Vatican on 11 February 1949, the twentieth anniversary of the Lateran Pacts

The message of greeting of Pius XII to Alcide De Gasperi on the occasion of his visit to the Vatican on 11 February 1949, the twentieth anniversary of the Lateran Pacts

From a letter of Father Messineo to Father Martina twenty years later I see that among other things he attributed a speech in Novara to De Gasperi, confusing it with the one, already mentioned, by Scelba.

An obvious propensity of mine to stress political aspects doesn’t prevent me from thanking Father Martina for having thrown light on the splendid figures of fellow brethren of his strongly committed to the care of souls as heroic military chaplains. And the pages devoted to the Jesuits in Albania, where a Jesuit was shot under that perfidious communist regime, are also moving.
But I must reserve some attention for three figures who stand out historically: Father Tacchi Venturi, Father Arrupe and Father Riccardo Lombardi.
The first, who had experienced all the trials of the Society including exile, is mentioned as the cleric who had open access to Palazzo Venezia and is sometimes described as “Mussolini’s confessor”.
The fact is that being concerned with the possible acquisition of the Chigi Library, taken over by the State with the palace of that name in 1919, he found himself speaking with Mussolini in person, come to power a few days earlier. In a generous gesture, having learned of the Pope’s interest in the matter, Mussolini decreed the donation of the valuable collection to the Holy See. Consequently he came to have great prestige as an excelling mediator. Hence, three years later the task given him by Cardinal Gasparri to negotiate Don Sturzo’s leaving of the Secretariat of the Popular Party and, immediately after, the departure from Italy.
The intervention and mediation of the Jesuit were requested over the following years with alternating results in a great many personal cases. His behavior toward Buonaiuti was not brilliant, but the boycotting of poor Don Ernesto continued even with two “lay” ministers at Public Education.
Father Tacchi Venturi was an authoritative collaborator on the Italian Encyclopaedia.

When Father Martina writes of Father Riccardo Lombardi he confirms a non-positive judgment that I have always had. However the matter requires considerable precision.
The goal, once again hoped for, of profound renewal both of the Church and Italy was fascinating. And in his writings on the former project there are more than a few anticipations of what was to be the later Council period. Unfortunately he retained himself, to use a canonical term, immediately subject only to himself, receiving prompting directly from Jesus. So much so that, believing Patriarch Roncalli to be mistaken, he raised his voice sharply, but he also made an angry outburst in audience with Pius XII, who was forced to remind him who was Pope.
Father Lombardi’s crusade took place not only in the squares of Italy – crowded, excited and applauding – but in the local language of many foreign countries. Everywhere he proclaimed large social change, forecasting that power would be won by the masses. Father Martina observes that the effect in the United States was limited by his poor knowledge of English. But the ambassador of Brazil also remarked that it was a piece of luck he believed he could speak Portuguese.
He was convinced that Italy was shattered, pointing in horror to the three hundred thousand (?) who died during the days of the Liberation. During the Eucharistic Congress at Assisi (1952), to the concern of the papal legate Cardinal Schuster, he deplored the fact that all Turin was now communist. Since that the mayor was the Christian Democrat Peyron, I had to interrupt him: he asked me if I was sure and continued undaunted.
It was said that his antipathy for De Gasperi and to some extent for the whole post-war system resulted also from the treatment of his father, a respected professor and Senator of the Realm, who had been purged. His sister Pia was instead of quite another opinion, a distinguished Christian Democrat parliamentarian. His brother Gabrio was later responsible for the referendum against divorce, in itself unexceptionable («we cannot forbid», said Paul VI, «recourse to a legitimate means to cancel a law we retain unjust») but the cause of a great diminution in the political weight of the Catholics. The hostility to divorce was percentually stronger in the two Houses than in the nation-wide vote, not excepting the city of Rome.
It would, however, be incorrect to stigmatize Father Lombardi overall by not recognizing – apart from his good faith – the goodness of some of his initiatives, starting from the Exercises for a better world. Innovating on the Saint Ignatius’ scheme of exercises, where the faithful observe several days of strict silence in seclusion, listening to the meditations and the reforms of the spiritual guide (I remember high-sounding Father Marchetti) Father Lombardi’s model was that of a tough debate among all the participants, chosen usually by homogeneous categories. I participated twice in a session for politicians and must say they were fascinating and constructive days.
Father Lombardi was different in earthly things. The evening of the failure of the Sturzo Operation he gave me a long sermon on the telephone maintaining that I absolutely had to find the formula for re-energizing the so-called Sturzo project (in truth his and Gedda’s). I was tired and very tense because of the danger to which political life had been exposed and in the end I told him curtly that I didn’t know what he meant to do, but I for my part I was going off to bed. I hung up sharply, and with great charity the Jesuit later showed no sign of remembering the discourtesy.
Memories of Father Lombardi go along with those of Father Rotondi, his “shadow” for many years, but with a progressive gain in independence that gave rise to a movement (the Oasis) of intense spirituality. Many years earlier I was by chance a witness at the Leoniano of Anagni – where Virginio was a seminarian – to the noisy reaction of his family when he announced his decision to enter the Society.
Father Rotondi was a good mediator. It was he who thawed (more exactly tried to thaw) relations between Pius XII and President Gronchi, accompanying the latter to Castel Gandolfo with his little motor without escort and meddlers. However the Lombardi-Rotondi duo constituted an atypical situation in the history of the Italian Jesuits, incisive and rich in positive contributions.
To the reasons for personal gratitude already mentioned I must add another, an unusual one, something that occurred shortly after my nomination as president of the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students. In prospect of the national congress it was usual to ask around for contributions, given that we had to lodge most of the students free. From the General Curia of the Jesuits we received a positive answer, of great enthusiasm for the initiative and for the items on the agenda, accompanied by the announcement that a hundred masses would be celebrated for its success. Despite the enormous war difficulties, the congress went very well. The doctrine that man does not live by bread alone struck me and the whole presidency very strongly.

The funeral of Father Arrupe 9 February 1991. Recognizable are Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, his successor, and Giulio Andreotti

The funeral of Father Arrupe 9 February 1991. Recognizable are Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, his successor, and Giulio Andreotti

Among the great upheavals in the post-war years there was also the storm within the Society. Deep currents of ecclesial renewal were stirring the Church in many regions of the world. Opposing urges came together in the attempt to stem both the desecratory current of international communism, and the spiritual aridity of an ever more inhuman capitalist society.
Special soldiers for the battles of God, the Jesuits felt the crisis more than others. They were told to adopt effective innovations, but without compromising the guidelines of tradition.
If in Latin America the so-called movements of liberation broke out in the Church, symbolized jointly by the Gospel and the rifle, almost everywhere there was intense ferment that put the frailer brethren especially in crisis and provoked painful defections.
Unquestioning fidelity to the Pope is a feature of the Society. The echo of the Billot case was still loud, with the conclusion of the renunciation of the cardinalate by the Jesuit French, in sympathy with Action Française against the advice of the Holy See. This time, however, they were not so isolated, but there was very widespread demand, especially among younger priests, to rediscuss even the essential fixed points in the preparation and apostolate of the Society.
The election as General of Father Arrupe gave rise to a shift. Shaped by experience in Japan, already atypical but made absolutely unique by the tragic events of the nuclear holocaust, this Jesuit was to steer the Society toward great renewal but renewal in line with the fixed points established by the founder. He had to fight on two fronts: the restless pressure from the young and the continual, tough calls to order from the Vatican.
I have already mentioned elsewhere meetings with Father Arrupe in my home, from which one can see across the river the statue of Christ topping the General Curia. The immediate occasion of the confidential visits was some particular problems of the Society to be handled without the rigidity of formal Church-State relations. But perhaps the priest was not sorry to be able to give vent without risk of indiscretion and with an intuited understanding of his dramatic situation.
Later, always at my home, I learned first-hand of one of those personal crises that so distressed the Father General. A group of lads, friends of my sons, had been joined by one less young than they, always dressed in jeans and T-shirt. I learned that he was an important Brazilian Jesuit and I was unconsciously glad to know that there was an ecclesiastical aid in the group. One day my sons told me that the “father” had told them that the Church no longer held the fascination it once did; and he was going to throw away his cassock – so to speak, since I’d never seen him wear it. Maybe I did wrong, but I commented by recalling what Pius XI used to say in response to the crises of priests: «What is the lady called?». The lads were scandalized, but, softly softly, a few months later they told me that the father was getting married.
It would be foolish to attribute the great crisis that faced Father Arrupe with a problem of girls. There was widespread, cultural and social disquiet, which required understanding and respect. It was not possible to chastise men who had been trained and had worked with fidelity and sacrifice for many years in the service of God. It needed prudence, moderation, trust.
That, from my small personal angle, was the experience of Father Arrupe, before whose tomb, in the Gesù church, I sometimes stop to meditate and pray.
Among the most painful days of his life was that on which he had to read the severe call to order that, even in his brief pontificate, John Paul I had addressed to the Order telling them «not to take the place of the laity by neglecting their own specific duty of evangelization».
On 7 August 1981, on returning from a visit to the Far East, Father Arrupe suffered a stroke, and designated as Vicar General the American Father O’Keefe, a freethinker of the time (very poor an interview of his in a Dutch newspaper). But the Pope intervened with the nomination of Father Dezza (later cardinal) as special delegate, charged with organizing the General Congregation, summoned for 2 September 1981. The following day Father Arrupe’s resignation was accepted and Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, still head of the Society, was elected in his place.
Certainly they were tempestuous years those gone through for over eighteen years in Borgo Santo Spirito by Father Arrupe, who died in 1991. But even his successor has not always had an easy life with the Vatican. Father Martina illustrates it effectively, even if some disagreements are not easy to understand from the outside (such as the opposition to the generalization of the fourth vow, the special one of obedience to the pope).
Strong stress is given in Father Martina’s book to the appointment as archbishop of Milan of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, recalling the only precedent of an Italian diocese being entrusted to a Jesuit (Boetto in Genoa during the war). Martini’s great gifts as biblical scholar are rightly brought to light in relation to the tormented situation of the Holy Land.
In his panorama of one hundred and sixty-nine years of lively Jesuit life in Italy an episode struck me. On Christmas Day 1913 the Pope sent a letter in which, immediately after the acknowledgement of its century-long merits, he admonished the Society to «keep away from the pestilential contagion of the world» and to avoid «a worldly spirit, flightiness of mind, the study of rash novelties».
Father General Wernz replied with an impassioned letter on 13 July 1914 but without result. Pius X died on 20 August; Father Wernz preceded him by few hours into a better world. Sic transit gloria mundi.

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