Late Jesuit knew people who are hurting need a hand, says successor
ROME – Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Jesuit superior general from 1965 to 1983, was a man who recognized that people who are hurting need a helping hand more than they need beautiful words, said Jesuit Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, current superior general.
Nicolas presided at a Nov. 9 Mass in Rome's Church of the Gesu to close a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fr. Arrupe's birth and to open a photo exhibit dedicated to the work of Jesuit Refugee Service, which Fr. Arrupe founded in 1980.
Today JRS employs more than 1,400 people -- Jesuits, other religious and laypeople -- in 57 countries, helping half a million refugees and forcibly displaced people.
During his homily, Nicolas said: "We are now in a gigantic financial crisis. This is a time when we need people like Pedro Arrupe, who recognized that each person is a temple of the Holy Spirit and must be respected and assisted."
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Preaching in the famous baroque church, which houses the tombs of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits' founder, and Fr. Arrupe, Nicolas said the value of human beings, "the living stones of the church," is much greater than the value of a building.
Commenting on the Mass reading from St. Paul about how people are temples of the Holy Spirit, Nicolas said, "The respect we pay to persons, especially those who suffer, must be double the respect we pay to a church building.
"Fr. Arrupe was a man who always remembered that people are the temples of God," he said.
Fr. Arrupe was Fr. Nicolas' provincial superior in Japan in the early 1960s.
"He was a man on fire, a man with a huge heart," Nicolas said. "He accepted others without fear, without prejudice, and was very concrete in meeting their needs."
In establishing JRS, Nicolas said, Fr. Arrupe committed the Jesuits to ensuring that "refugees, people who are forced to leave their homes and homelands and do not know what they will find, will find open hearts and helping hands because they are the temples of the Holy Spirit."
After the Mass, at Fr. Arrupe's tomb, Nicolas led dozens of Jesuits, JRS staff members and hundreds of supporters in a prayer that Christ would help Catholics see his face in the face of refugees.