23 years ago today, Jesuits Fathers Dezza and Korec were both made cardinals, in a consistory held by Pope John Paul II. The 2 Jesuits were among 22 new cardinals named that day, it meant that the number of Jesuit Cardinals rose to a total of seven, which was a record number. Although Ignatius was strongly against Jesuits seeking positions of power or authority in the church, it is widely considered that the cardinals hat was conferred to these men as a sign of honour for lives of great service in the church - not for positions of active governance. What can we learn from their lives?
Paolo Dezza was to play a very important role in the recent history of the Society after the stroke that incapacitated Pedro Arrupe, and prevented him from continuing his service as Father General. Arrupe had named his American assistant Vincent O'Keefe as vicar general. Two months later - after the doctors had suggested that Fr Arrupe 'lead a life as free as possible from fatigue andstress',, a letter was delivered personally to Arrupe by Cardinal Casaroli, the Papal Secretary of State, announcing that he was appointing Fr Dezza as his personal delegate to supervise the governance of the Society and ensure a 'more thorough preparation' for the next general congregation. Dezza had the trust of the Pope. It is widely thought that he helped to steer the Society through this crisis with great sensitivity and wisdom, until GC32 electerd Fr Kolvenbach. A great scholar he had been involved with preparing the dogma of the Assumption and had been a trusted advisor and confessor to Pope Paul VI and John Paul I.
Jan Korec, born in Slovakia, had his formation disrupted by the Communists. He was ordained a priest eleven years after entering the novitiate, and incredibly a year later at the age of twenty-seven, he was secretly consecrated a bishop by Bishop Pavol Hnilica. The following years he worked as a night watchman and then a maintenance worker. He was imprisoned from 1960 to 1968 alongside at least 250 priests and several bishops. His hardships are described in the Night of the Barbarians published by Bolchazy-Carducci. After his release he continued to work as a street cleaner and as a factory worker. During this time, he also continued his active life as a leader of the underground Church. His private apartment became a highly sought-out centre for spiritual advice. It was forbidden under the Comminists to publish Christian literature, but he wrote his famous "samizdat" books that were secretly printed and distributed among students and the general public. Ján Korec also secretly ordained priests and his role was crucial in keeping the Slovak Church alive. The Secret Police watched Korec's apartment closely, and two attempts were made to assassinate him. When the Iron Curtain fell Pope John Paul II made him a Cardinal.
Tim Byron SJ Chris Corbally SJ Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ Thomas McClain SJ Paul Nicholson SJ Oliver Rafferty SJ Eric Ramirez SJ Ian Tomlinson SJ
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We want it to be a year of study and reflection. All the crises of history enclose a hidden wisdom that needs to be fathomed. For us, Jesuits, this is the commemoration of our greatest crisis. It is, therefore, important that we should learn from the events themselves, that we should discover the good and the bad in our behaviour in order to revive those great desires the Pope spoke of and continue the work of Evangelisation, refining our brotherhood and deepening our love.
Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits, 2014