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Pope celebrates Mass at Jesuit church in Rome

Pope Francis smiles during Mass at the Church of the Gesu in Rome Below: The Pontiff with Father Adolfo Nicolas outside the church (CNS)

True faith is marked by the daring desire to change the world with the loving heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said today during a visit to the Jesuits’ main church in Rome

The zealous proclamation of the Gospel must never be coupled with “inquisitional clobbering, with condemnation. No, the Gospel is proclaimed with kindness, fraternity and love,” he told more than 300 of his fellow Jesuits.

The Pope celebrated the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus at the Church of the Gesu. It was the first Jesuit Pope’s third visit as Pontiff to the church where St Ignatius of Loyola and other Jesuit leaders are buried.

The Mass was also a celebration of thanksgiving for the recent canonisation of St Peter Faber, who, with St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier, was a founding member of the Society of Jesus and the first of the Jesuits to be ordained a priest.

In his homily, Pope Francis said that one of things that stood out with St Peter was his desire to “empty himself” and let Christ fill his heart and life.

The 16th-century priest possessed a restlessness for God, an understanding of his dreams and desires, and the ability to act with determination, the Pope said.

“An authentic faith always entails a deep desire to change the world. This is the question we must ask ourselves: Do we, too, have a great vision and impulse? Are we audacious? Does our dream soar high? Does our zeal consume us?” the Pope asked.

“Or are we mediocre and we content ourselves with our laboratory of apostolic programmes?”

Pope Francis greets crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Church of the Gesu in Rome

Instead, people need to remember “the strength of the Church does not reside in itself and its organisational abilities, but hides in the deep waters of God,” the Pope said.

These “deep waters stir up our desires and these yearnings widen the heart,” he added, citing St Augustine, who saw prayer as a way to fuel the desire to widen one’s heart to God.

“St Peter was consumed by the intense desire to convey the Lord” to others and “if we don’t have the same yearning, then we need to stop and pray and, with silent fervour, ask the Lord for the intercession of our brother Peter (the apostle) to return to fascinate us – that appeal of the Lord that led Peter to all that apostolic madness.”

Only with Christ at the centre of one’s life can people go to the ends of the earth for God, he said, adding that Jesuits must be willing to empty themselves and feel, think, love, see and walk like Christ.

Though he did not mention it in his homily, 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus by Pope Pius VII after it had been suppressed for 41 years starting in 1773 by Pope Clement XIV.

To avoid losing his way, the Pope said, a Jesuit must be “a person whose thinking is incomplete, whose thinking is open, so that he always thinks looking at the horizon that is the always greater glory of God who endlessly surprises us.”

At the end of the Mass, Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits worldwide, thanked the Pope for celebrating Mass with them and for the canonisation of St Peter, saying “each time a Jesuit becomes a saint is an opportunity for all of us to deepen our vocation.”

Father Nicolas also recalled the joy he felt when Pope Francis called him immediately to say “I just signed the decree” declaring Faber a saint.

The decree, signed on the Pope’s birthday (December 17) was an “equivalent canonisation,” in which the Pope inserts the name of the new saint in the universal calendar of saints without verifying a miracle performed through his intercession and without holding a formal canonisation ceremony.