Irish Jesuits surprised and delighted with Pope Francis

‘We hadn't been talking about him, wondering will old Jorge get it this time...’

A man reads an Italian newspaper showing the newly elected Pope Francis on its front page. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

A man reads an Italian newspaper showing the newly elected Pope Francis on its front page. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Thu, Mar 14, 2013, 12:09

says Fr John Looby, a Jesuit priest for 62 years. The world had had its first Jesuit pope for a mere half hour. Members of the 15-strong Jesuit community at Lower Leeson Street in Dublin had been finishing their dinner of salmon, apple sponge and custard when the white smoke went up.

“We were called during dinner by the cook, who had heard on the radio the white smoke had gone up, so we abandoned the rest of dinner to watch the televison,” says Fr Brian Grogan who has been a Jesuit for 58 years.

Talking in their front parlour, the priests were excited and openly astonished at the fact the new pope is Jesuit. His was not a name most of their community were familiar with.

“We hadn’t been talking about him, wondering will old Jorge get it this time,” as Fr Grogan jokes. Fr Grogan is one of the few who had previously heard of him, via an article he read recently in The Tablet .

“When I read it, I thought he can forget about being pope anyway, because he’s Jesuit.”

Sensitivities
“We tend to think that Jesuits wouldn’t get elected as pope, because they try to avoid high ecclestical office,” Fr Grogan says. “We’d be aware of the sensitivities to Jesuits in the Vatican: some people would think of us as straying from the path a bit, and of being too forward and liberal. We tend to think that all Jesuits are different.”

Both priests are dressed casually. “Jesuits tend not to dress like bishops and cardinals,” Fr Looby says. They marked the fact that Pope Francis took off his stole immediately after the announcement. That’s very significant. There’s no grandeur.”

“One’s preference as a Jesuit is to be out of the limelight,” says Fr Grogan.

What they are most excited about, he says, is that “we know something of what makes this man tick. Vision. Breath of vision. The desire to serve people. And total availability, and a capacity to work by discernment.

The priests are now hoping to “boost our sales of The Messenger [magazine]”.