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Identification mark of the order
Il Gesù in Rome, mother church of the Jesuit order

As Jesuits are members of are Catholic religious order Society of Jesus ( Society of Jesus , religious symbol : SJ ) indicates that from a circle of friends around Ignatius of Loyola was born and was papal recognized on September 27 1540th In addition to the evangelical councils - poverty, celibacy and obedience - the members of the order also commit themselves to special obedience to the Pope . The term Jesuit was initially used as a mockery, but was later adopted by the order itself. Superior General has been since 2016Arturo Sosa ; the seat of the administration is in Rome .


The Jesuits are regular clerics . They have no special religious clothing and no common choir prayer. They do not live in monasteries, but in communities without an enclosure . Members of the order have the suffix SJ (abbreviation for Societas Jesu ) after their surname .

Symbol of the Order is in capital letters written noun sacrum IHS (the initials can still take over from the Greek script detect), often as Jesus habemus Socium ( We have Jesus as companions ) or Iesus hominum Salvator ( Jesus, the Redeemer of man ) was interpreted. The motto of the order is the Latin phrase: Omnia ad maiorem Dei gloriam ( Everything for the greater glory of God ), often abbreviated OAMDG or AMDG.

The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola form the core of the spirituality of the Order. During these 30-day spiritual exercises , the retreatant (the person who performs the exercises) observes his life and the life of Jesus in prayer and meditation and is accompanied by the person giving the retreat. Nowadays, Ignatian retreats are also offered and performed by laypeople and other religious orders.

On January 1, 2017, the Order had a total of 16,090 members, including 11,574 priests , 2,694 scholastics (members between the first and last vows), 1,133 brothers and 734 novices . The order is divided into 75 provinces, 4 independent and 6 dependent regions worldwide. Large numbers of Jesuits around the world work in schools and universities. Other important fields of activity are the accompaniment of retreats , social and refugee work and media work.


Founding of the order

Regimini militantis Ecclesiae
Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

The order of the Jesuits was founded and substantially shaped by Ignatius von Loyola . Ignatius (born 1491) came from the Basque nobility and was initially an officer until, at the age of thirty, a war wound prevented him from advancing further in this career. Mystical experiences after this turning point in life brought him on a religious path. In his autobiographical pilgrimage report , he describes himself as a pilgrim and describes how God led him in everything. After some adventurous, sometimes fruitful preliminary stages, he studied in different places, from 1528 in Paris, where he received his Master's degree in 1535 . In Paris he also gathered companions (such as Franz Xaver and Peter Faber ) around him and joined them on August 15, 1534 (the day of the Assumption) on Montmartre by taking joint vows. The intended, vowed pilgrimage with subsequent pastoral work in Jerusalem turned out to be impracticable. Instead, the group surrendered to Pope Paul III in Rome at the end of 1537 . to disposal. Two years later he approved the basic statute of the community ( Formula Instituti ) and confirmed the community as an order with the bull Regimini militantis ecclesiae of September 27, 1540. Ignatius was elected first superior and headed the rapidly growing order from Rome until the end of his life on July 31, 1556. The detailed statutes ( Constitutiones , instead of a rule of the order ) were mainly drawn up by Ignatius after the order was founded and put into effect in 1558 . Due to the strongly emphasized obedience, its strict hierarchy and the greatest possible personal flexibility and independence (Ignatian: indifference), the order was able to grow rapidly and become active in many countries.

The founding of the order was part of a Catholic renewal movement that expected a reform of the church from internal renewal and a personal relationship with Christ , similar to what Martin Luther wanted. This personal relationship with Christ made possible in the early years an openness towards people who (like Jesus) were of Jewish descent, which was unusual for the church of that time. From Ignatius the sentence has been handed down that he would like to come from the people of Jesus. Several early Jesuits came from Jewish families ( conversos ) who had converted to Christianity , including Diego Laínez , the successor to Ignatius in the office of Superior General, and the first Jesuit cardinal Francisco de Toledo . Nevertheless, from 1593 Christians of Jewish descent were prevented from entering the order. This regulation has been modified repeatedly, and in individual cases it has also been dispensed with; but it was not finally abolished until 1946.

Female counterpart of the order

Ignatius obtained in 1547 under the pressure of the church political circumstances and some confreres of Pope Paul III. a decree that should prevent a female branch of the Jesuit order (see also encyclical Regimini militantis ecclesiae ). Nevertheless, Mary Ward founded the Institute of the English Misses in 1609, from the outset with the intention of adopting for this order the constitutions that Ignatius had drawn up for the Society of Jesus. However, this was only permitted by the Vatican in 2003 after a long effort. The order, which until then was called “Institutum Beatae Mariae Virginis” (abbreviation IBMV), “Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, has since been recognized as a female counterpart to the Jesuit order. Since 2004 it bears the name Congregatio Jesu , which is based on the self-designation of the Jesuits, Societas Jesu. The new abbreviation 'CJ' was chosen by analogy with that of the Jesuits, SJ. Although the members of the Congregatio Jesu with their current religious rule and their spirituality are essentially "Jesuits", historically and legally they are not simply the female branch of the Jesuit order, but (like the " Franciscan " Congregation of the Servants of Holy Childhood) Jesus ) an independent religious community.

Counter-Reformation and Baroque

Apotheosis of St. Ignatius, ceiling fresco by Andrea Pozzo, Church of Sant'Ignazio, Rome

In Europe, Jesuits played a significant role in the Counter-Reformation , the Catholic renewal in response to Protestantism, which they viewed as heresy . To this end, the order first founded religious houses in countries that were at risk for the Catholic faith. Where this was not possible, for example in Ireland, England or in a number of German territories, the corresponding religious house was opened in Rome, and some of the Fathers traveled illegally into the country. Since the order had no mandatory costume, this could often go unnoticed.

The Jesuits developed a lively activity from the religious houses, which mainly included preaching and pastoral care, including confession . Here they developed a special case report that also took into account the mitigating circumstances of the commission when measuring penalties for sins. Since they were often the pastors and confessors of kings and princes, they also exerted a certain political influence.

Another important field of activity of the Jesuits was, in accordance with their vows, the education of the youth: The schools and universities founded by the Jesuits, such as B. the university in Dillingen and in the then Polish-Lithuanian Wilna were supposed to guarantee that future generations grew up firmly rooted in the Catholic faith.

The Jesuits advocated celebrating the Catholic faith through splendid ceremonies , and in this context they also promoted baroque architecture. In the course of the counter-Reformation propaganda they promoted the baroque theater and developed their own tradition with the Jesuit theater .

Poland is seen as the greatest success of the Order's counter-Reformation efforts . The aristocratic upper class of the country, the Szlachta , had turned to Protestantism to a not insignificant extent by the middle of the 16th century, the citizens of some cities had even become mostly Protestant, although the division between Lutherans, Calvinists, Bohemian Brothers and Unitarians was great . Traditional Polish tolerance played a role here, as did the influence of the Hussites a hundred years earlier. Nevertheless, the Polish kings in particular held fast to the Catholic faith. King Stephan Báthory (1533–1586) allowed the establishment of Jesuit religious houses in present-day Poland, starting in 1564 with Braunsberg in Prussia, in the exemten diocese of Warmia , then in Vilnius in 1567 , in Posen in 1574 , etc. From here the Jesuits began, who thanks to their higher level of education and their tighter discipline was superior to the other orders and secular clergy, with sermons, pastoral care, poor relief and, not least, through their educational work, especially in the upper class, the re-Catholicization of the country. Stephen's successor King Sigismund III. Wasa (1586–1632) had already been brought up by the Jesuits, tolerated their increasingly aggressive counter-Reformation work and only appointed Catholics as senators . In addition to the Jesuit efforts, the success of the Counter-Reformation in Poland also played a role in the fact that the rural population was only partially affected by Protestantism and Sigismund's wars against Protestant Sweden and Orthodox Russia made Catholicism appear as a kind of national religion. During this time there were also occasional arson and destruction of Protestant churches, perpetrated by a mob incited by Jesuit sermons, e. B. 1603–1616 in Poznan, 1591 in Krakow , 1611 in Vilnius. This increasingly intolerant religious policy came to an end when the Sejm in 1717 banned the building of new Protestant churches and ordered all those built since 1632 to be torn down; the death penalty was now envisaged for apostasy from the Catholic faith. In just half a century the Jesuits had succeeded in anchoring Catholicism permanently in the country.


Fall of Hell - painting by the Jesuit missionary to China Giuseppe Castiglione , 18th century

Jesuits worked as missionaries in China , Japan , India , America . The letters of the Jesuit missionary Franz Xaver were widely circulated and aroused new enthusiasm for missions in many Catholics . In the 18th century, Jesuits shaped the cultural life at the Chinese imperial court to a considerable extent. worked as painters and astronomers.

In Paraguay there was a Jesuit state from 1610 to 1767 , in which the Jesuits had introduced a Christian social system among the indigenous people . In this way the Indians could live in so-called reductions independently of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial rulers and in relative security. The Jesuits used music - liturgical songs, chants in local languages, composed masses, lamentations, passions as well as operas and theater performances - as a means of proselytizing. Since an army of up to several thousand men was recruited from the Guaraní , which at times formed the only defense of the colonists against hostile Indians and attacks from other colonial powers, the Jesuit reductions also had a strong stabilizing effect on the Spanish colonial empire.

The Jesuit mission in Latin America was controversial in Europe, particularly in Spain and Portugal , where it was viewed as a hindrance to the colonial ventures of their own governments. In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from Paraguay by the Spaniards.

Criticism also came from the clergy. The bishop of Puebla, Juan de Palafox , reported to the Pope with disgust about the materialistic profit-making of Jesuit enterprises. He complained about huge haciendas, several large sugar plantations, and factories and shops that profited from trade with the Philippines and operated with the help of black slave labor. The Jesuits also benefited from the tax exemption from the Spanish colonial empire. According to the British historian Henry Kamen , the Jesuits were among the greatest slave-owners in South America in the mid-18th century.

The order as an educational institution

The Jesuits have long played a major role in Europe's educational system. The suggestion for the establishment of Jesuit educational institutions went back to Ignatius von Loyola himself, who suggested in 1551 that besides theology , also logic and the ancient classics should be taught there; later mathematics , astronomy , physics and philosophy were added. In the 17th century, the order spread the thesis sheet , the large-format announcement of the academic disputation engraved in copper , in the upscale Catholic education system. At the beginning of the 18th century there were numerous schools all over Europe. B. the sons of nobles, but also members of lower social classes were educated. From among the ranks of the students came among others. Rugjer Josip Bošković , René Descartes , Voltaire , Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet , Denis Diderot and Henry Humphrey Evans Lloyd . Another important contribution was that in publications of the order, such as the Journal de Trévoux , contemporary literature could be discussed publicly without having to fear the inquisition or censorship. For this reason, even the enlightenment thinker Voltaire regretted the decline of the order in the later course of the 18th century. On the other hand, Jesuits were at the forefront of those who advocated the prohibition of the work of René Descartes in the second half of the 17th century when complaints arose after his death that he had left no room for God in his scientific studies. The math historian Amir Alexander names the ideological struggle of the Jesuits against the use of infinitesimal numbers as the main reason for the decline of the centuries-old tradition of mathematics on the Italian peninsula at the end of the 17th century, and the relocation of the main centers of mathematical progress to areas north of the Alps, where the Jesuits had less influence.

Today, the Jesuits run universities, schools and boarding schools around the world, in which they provide a total of more than two million young people with general educational content. The order's intention is to prepare them for their later life according to the principles of the Christian image of man : to mature into people for others .

Persecutions in the 17th – 20th centuries century

Basis: The Monita Secreta

For a long time, the Jesuit Order was exposed to strong hostility because its opponents frequently suspected it of numerous conspiracies : the image of a sinister, Rome-obsessed Jesuit who secretly spins intrigues to torpedo national, Protestant or enlightenment endeavors is at the beginning of the story of political conspiracy theories of modern times. The background of these conspiracy theories lies in the submission of the order members to the teaching of the Catholic Church . Ignatius did not explain in the rule of the order, but in the exercise book: “In order to find the right thing in everything, we must always hold on to it: I believe that the white that I see is black, if the Hierarchical Church defines it that way. "

The classic textual basis for hostility towards the Jesuits was provided by the Monita Secreta ( Latin for secret admonitions ), which appeared in Krakow in 1614 . They are considered to be "one of the most important forgeries in the history of modern times". They were written by the ex-Jesuit Hieronymus Zahorowski, who pretended to contain instructions from the fifth general, Claudio Acquaviva, to the Fathers. Until the 20th century the text was reprinted again and again as evidence of alleged conspiracy activities of the Jesuit order. The Monita secreta is said to have been discovered by Duke Christian von Braunschweig , who, however, was just twelve years old at the time of their first appearance. The information about the location also contradicts one another. Called Paderborn , Prague , Liege , Antwerp , Glatz and a hijacked East India sailors. According to the Monita Secreta , the Jesuits are called upon to use literally every means to increase the power and prosperity of the order, while these true goals are to be kept strictly secret. For example, it is recommended to gain influence on the great and mighty of this world by showing yourself as a confessor more generously than clergy from other orders, who should be kept away from influential ecclesiastical offices by slander and other means; Political and private secrets of the princes had to be found out by bribing their favorites and servants; rich widows should be persuaded not to marry again so that they can bequeath their property to the order; their children should be induced to join the Order for the same reason; It is urgently advised not to report the real financial circumstances of the Order to the Pope, but instead to present oneself to him and in public as always in need, but as generous to the poor.

This already outlines the central allegations of the following story: The Jesuits are greedy and lust for power, they spin intrigues and work conspiratorially , they exert unlawful influence on politics and receive secret instructions from abroad, they are unhesitatingly in the Choice of their means and lax in their morals. These stereotypes , mainly in England before the Glorious Revolution were widespread and in the alleged Popish Plot found of 1678 its bloody climax, went in the 18th century in the discourse of the Enlightenment one, as in the Encyclopédie and the radical anti-clerical Voltaire , who exchanged the charge of moral laxity for that of religious fanaticism .

The abolition of the order in the 18th century

In the second half of the 18th century, increased attacks on the Jesuit order began, during which the conspiracy theories were updated and tailored to the specific situation in the country. Especially the representatives of absolutism in Portugal , France and Spain were bothered by the autonomous position of the internationally active order:

  • In Portugal, the Jesuits were accused of inciting the Indians to rebellion in their reductions (1750) and of planning an assassination attempt on King Joseph I (1758). In January 1759, the king ordered the property to be confiscated. Finally, on the basis of a deportation law of September 1759, the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal in October.
  • In France, the order was attacked by the representatives of Gallicanism , the Enlightenment and Jansenism . The bankruptcy of the superior general of the Jesuit missions in Latin America led to a trial before the Jansenist-dominated “ Parlement ” (court) of Paris (1764), which confiscated the monastic property in France. Due to the disclosure of the previously secret Constitution of the Order, including absolute obedience to the Pope, King Louis XV expelled . those Jesuits who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the country.
  • In Spain, too, which was ruled by a branch line of the French Bourbons , the reductions were viewed with suspicion and the order was held responsible for the Madrid hat revolt (1766), whereupon the Jesuits were expelled from Spain in February 1767 and their property was confiscated.
First page of the papal deed of repeal Dominus ac Redemptor in Latin and French

A territorial conflict between the equally Bourbon ruled Duchy of Parma and the Papal States finally offered Spain, France and Portugal a lever to exert increased pressure on the Papal Curia to have the hated religious entirely cancel. After tough negotiations, Clement XIV submitted and canceled the order on July 21, 1773 with the Breve Dominus ac Redemptor . The following year, three smaller territories that had been occupied by the Bourbon powers were returned to the Papal States in order to put pressure on the Curia.

In the Netherlands ( Republic of the Seven United Provinces ) the Jesuits were able to continue their work after 1773 regardless of the papal breve. In the Austrian Netherlands , however, the Jesuits were placed under strict official and ecclesiastical supervision.

In Russia and Prussia, where the non-Catholic governments did not recognize papal authority anyway, some of the Jesuits found refuge, mainly because Tsarina Catherine the Great and Frederick II did not want to give up the advantages of the Jesuit school system and because both rulers for the Catholic population of Poland, which had been divided between Russia and Prussia, needed pastors.

Persecutions in the 19th and 20th centuries

In 1814 the Society of Jesus was re-approved by Pope Pius VII by virtue of the bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum of August 7, 1814. Despite ever new expulsions and bans, the order quickly grew back to its old size.

Memory of Father Rupert Mayer in St. Benedict

In Germany, shortly after the founding of the Reich, during the Kulturkampf on July 4, 1872 , Jesuit institutions were abolished and foreign religious members were expelled from the country. Towards the end of the First World War, these Jesuit laws were repealed again in 1917 . During the time of National Socialism , the Jesuits, like the Freemasons , were counted among the " pests of the people ". Several fathers were banned from preaching, restricted in their activities, persecuted and interned in concentration camps. Father Rupert Mayer , an important male pastor and preacher at the Munich Jesuit Church of St. Michael , was isolated in Ettal . Father Alfred Delp was arrested as a member of the Kreisau Circle and executed in Berlin-Plötzensee . Numerous other order members from all over Europe were interned in the so-called pastor's block in the Dachau concentration camp . The Jesuit Father Vincent A. Lapomarda lists the names of 30 Jesuits who died in the pastor's block alone (a total of 43 Jesuits died in concentration camps).

In Switzerland in 1844 the demand for the expulsion of the Jesuits was loud. The call of the Jesuits to Lucerne gave rise to violent reactions and led to the troop marches and the Sonderbund . After the Sonderbund War , all Jesuits were expelled from Switzerland and the activities of the order were banned in the Federal Constitution of 1848 . In 1874 the ban was extended so that all Jesuits were forbidden from any activity in state or church. This confessional exception article was repealed in 1973.

In Spain the Society of Jesus was banned several times, for example under Isabella II in the course of the First Carlist War and later again in the Second Republic, which perished in the Spanish Civil War .

In 1989, in San Salvador , military personnel murdered eight members of the Central American University of José Simeón Cañas (UCA), including students, servants and the rector Ignacio Ellacuría . The UCA is a university founded by Jesuits in 1965.

Developments in the 20th Century

Grave of Father Pedro Arrupes in the Church of Il Gesu in Rome (since 1997)

Theologically, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Order was involved in the modernism dispute under its Superior General Franz Xaver Wernz , which revolved around the question of the justification of the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible . In the Pascendi encyclical, Pope Pius X rejected newer rationalist tendencies in exegesis and the history of dogma, and in 1910 he introduced an anti-modernist oath that all priests must take . The dispute led to the establishment of the Pontifical Biblicum Institute , which was under Jesuit leadership. Under Cardinal Augustin Bea , however, decisive impulses came later to enter into a dialogue with the rest of the research, which was shaped by the historical-critical method .

Significant members of the order in central and north-western Europe in the 20th century included the philosopher Erich Przywara and the theologians Jean Daniélou , Henri de Lubac and Karl Rahner , whose work significantly influenced the Second Vatican Council . They tried to break the neo-Scholastic school theology that had ruled the Catholic Church since the 19th century by building on contemporary philosophy. The paleontologist, geologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tried to combine the biblical understanding of creation with the scientific theory of evolution . In the field of social sciences, Heinrich Pesch , Gustav Gundlach and Oswald von Nell-Breuning deepened the approaches of Catholic social teaching . Pesch and Gundlach exercised an important influence on political Catholicism until around 1950/60 ; Nell-Breuning's influence on the socio-political positions of German politicians, not just those of the Catholic denomination, can still be felt today.

Pope Paul VI gave the order the special task of fighting atheism , while Pedro Arrupe, as Father General, shaped the order and reformed it at the same time. For the first time, new accents were set in the option for the poor , the connection between faith and justice and a constructive line critical of the church. The 32nd General Congregation (1974/75) formulated: "The mission of the Society of Jesus today consists in the service of the faith, of which the promotion of justice is a necessary part."

Ever since Pedro Arrupe, as superior general, brought social concerns to the order and urged renewal - like others before - there were and still are positions critical of the church among the Jesuits. The emphasis on issues such as option for the poor , however, met with less understanding from some in the Order. Internal tensions were particularly evident in the period from 1981 to 1983, when Arrupe no longer continued his generalate due to illness and Pope John Paul II with Paolo Dezza SJ (together with Giuseppe Pittau SJ as coadjutor ) for the first time set up a leadership that was not part of the members had been chosen. It was thanks to Superior General Peter Hans Kolvenbach that these tensions were evened out with the Vatican.

In 1995 the 34th General Congregation since the Order was founded took place in Rome. It passed 26 decrees describing current priorities in the order.

Numerous celebrities attended Jesuit schools , including James Joyce , Fidel Castro , Mario Draghi , Peter Scholl-Latour and Heiner Geißler . In 2013, one-tenth of the members of the US Congress attended a Jesuit school or college.

Developments in the 21st Century

Before the 35th General Congregation, Pope Benedict XVI wrote. on January 10, 2008 in a letter to Father General Kolvenbach, among others:

“In order to give the whole Society of Jesus a clear direction, the support is for a generous and faithful apostolic devotion, it would be useful today as never before if the General Congregation, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, confirmed its full adherence to Catholic doctrine , especially on some neuralgic points that are now very strongly attacked by secular culture, such as the relationship between Christ and religions, some aspects of the theology of liberation and various points of sexual morality, especially the question of the indissolubility of marriage and concerns pastoral care for homosexual people. "

In an address to the General Congregation on February 21, 2008, the same Pope also confirmed the special mission of the Jesuits to the borders of today's world and culture:

“The Church needs you, she counts on you and continues to turn to you with confidence, especially to reach those physical and spiritual places where others cannot or can only reach with difficulty. The words of Paul VI are engraved in your heart: 'Everywhere in the Church, on the most difficult and foremost fronts, in ideological disputes, where social conflicts break out, where the deepest human desires and the eternal message of the Gospel clash, were there always and are Jesuits. '"

On January 19, 2008, the 35th General Congregation elected Adolfo Nicolás as the new Superior General, who replaced Kolvenbach. In addition to questions of internal structure, the steadily increasing importance of collaboration with laypeople is also evident as an important contemporary issue.

The main focus of the international religious activities are in the following areas: Africa, China, spirituality , migration and interreligious dialogue .

With a total of 16,090 brothers and priests (at the beginning of 2017), the Jesuit order is numerically the largest order in the Catholic Church. Today this is part of an Ignatian network of various religious and lay communities, which refers to Ignatian spirituality. The partnership cooperation of all in the common mission for the needs of the time has become the great concern of the present.

The internal diversity of opinions on the major and current issues in the Church persisted. The generation of 30- and 40-year-olds in the western world takes a partly more conservative line, both in religious politics and in general church issues. Since the 1970s the order has lost about a third of its members and is currently concerned about its numerical primacy among the orders and in the church's sphere of influence. Not least for this reason, cooperation with laypeople has become important. That is why the order tries to promote various groups who collaborate in its works or who share other key areas of focus of the order. These groups include the Community of Christian Life , the Ignatian Associates , the Jesuit Volunteers (a voluntary service for adults aged 18 and over) and others.

For the first time since March 13, 2013, Pope Francis has been headed by a Jesuit at the head of the Catholic Church. On almost all trips abroad, he repeatedly meets with local Jesuits.

The 36th General Congregation took place in Rome from October 2 to November 14, 2016. On October 14, 2016, she elected the Venezuelan Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal as Superior General. Pope Francis, who is himself a member of the Jesuit order, was the first Pope to visit a general congregation on October 24th and encouraged the order to move forward together "freely and obediently - to the margins [which others cannot reach".

On April 27, 2021, the German Province (with Sweden), the Austrian Province, the Swiss Province and the Lithuanian-Latvian Province merged to form the Province of Central Europe ( Europa Centralis ). The central European province comprises 36 communities , 442 Jesuits belong to it. These provinces had already worked together in various areas, for example Hungarian and Lithuanian novices had been trained in Nuremberg since 1989. For Provincial of the new province specific Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa on July 31, 2020 Provincial of the Austrian Province, P. Bernhard Bürgler . The seat of the Province of Central Europe is Munich.


The formation of the Jesuits is divided into several areas: candidacy, novitiate , possibly scholasticism and third degree . The process of formation lasts for a lifetime in accordance with the impulses of the Second Vatican Council for the formatio continua , as in most other orders. The training is developed and accentuated differently on the different continents depending on the needs and previous training of the interested parties. For those interested who already have certain qualifications or experience at the beginning of their training, the program is shortened accordingly.

At the beginning there are usually three-day retreats (triduum) in which the candidates make the novitiate promise. In the novitiate the interested party has to decide whether he wants to become a Jesuit brother or a priest. The time in the novitiate house is interrupted by the various experiments in pastoral or social activities. The central experiment is the 30-day retreat . At the end of this two-year examination period, the first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are taken. For all Jesuits who want to become priests, the time as scholastics now follows. It includes the study of philosophy and theology , interrupted by approximately two years of practical activity, the so-called Magisterium or Interstiz . In addition to studying philosophy and theology, numerous Jesuits have also completed a full degree in another major, e.g. B. in a linguistic, literary or religious studies discipline, in medicine or one of the natural sciences. Others have additional theological qualifications of scientific or practical relevance, e.g. B. a doctorate in a sub-subject of theology or a pastoral psychological postgraduate course.

The third, which takes place after about ten years, is an approximately six-month Sabbath and study period during which the 30-day retreat is carried out for the second time. After the terciate, the superior general invites the Jesuits to take the “last” vows: the three evangelical counsels and (usually) the fourth vow of special obedience to the Pope with regard to missions and missions. This vow is a characteristic of the Jesuit order and since 2004 also of the Congregatio Jesu .

Jesuits in Germany

History of the Jesuits in the Holy Roman Empire and Germany

Petrus Canisius , engraving around 1600

Peter Faber and especially Petrus Canisius , the first German Jesuit, shaped the early years. In 1544 the first Jesuit branch in Germany was established in Cologne, where the derogatory term “Jesuit” was first used for the members of the Society of Jesus. In 1556 the first two German provinces were founded (the Low German , including today's Holland and Belgium, and the Upper German , including the Austrian territories). After further partitions, there were three German provinces (excluding the Habsburg states): the Lower Rhine (under Cologne), Upper Rhine (Mainz) and Upper German (Munich), which also included Switzerland and Tyrol. Canisius, who was active in southern Germany, was the first German religious provincial (1556–1569) to lay the foundation for the Counter-Reformation in Germany. With the New World Bott they maintained an independent missionary magazine in the 18th century. After the founding of many higher schools, which often still exist today, Jesuits held a central position in education for a long time, which ended with the dissolution of the order in 1773 (examples: Wilhelmsgymnasium Munich , Dreikönigsgymnasium Cologne, Rabanus-Maurus-Gymnasium Mainz).

In 1849 the Jesuits, who had to stop their work in Switzerland, began to work again in Germany. But in 1872 the Jesuit law passed during the Kulturkampf drove them out of the German Reich into “exile”. Training houses were located in the Netherlands (Theological College 1895–1942 in Valkenburg ), z. Also in Great Britain ( Ditton Hall), in the missions more than half of the trained Jesuits did their service. They were in the Scandinavian countries (Denmark since 1873, Sweden since 1879), outside Europe, especially in the missions established for German emigrants in the USA ( Canisius College ) and southern Brazil, especially in Rio Grande del Sul . Finally there was the Bombay Pune Mission in India, the missions in Rhodesia (Bishop Helmut Reckter ) and (since 1908) Japan, where they founded today's Sophia University . The Jesuit ban was softened in 1904 and lifted in 1917 (before the end of the empire). The previously a German province was divided in 1921 into the Low German (seat in Cologne) and Upper German (seat in Munich), to which Switzerland also belonged. The first Upper German Provincial Augustin Bea later became a Curia Cardinal and helped shape Vatican II . Jesuit universities now existed in St. Georgen and Pullach during the Weimar period . In 1931 the third East German Province (based in Berlin) was established. The best-known Jesuit during the Nazi era is now the resistance activist Alfred Delp (see persecutions). Chancellor Konrad Adenauer maintained a close relationship with several Jesuits, including classmate Max Pribilla and the social philosopher Gustav Gundlach .

On July 31, 2004, the Upper German and North German Province merged to form the German Province of the Jesuits, to which Sweden was also assigned. At the beginning of 2019 it had 323 members. The seat of the Provincialate of the German Province was in Munich. Since 2004, Father Stefan Dartmann SJ was the first Provincial to head the unified German Province of the Jesuits based in Munich. His successor from 2010 to 2017 was Father Stefan Kiechle SJ. Since June 1, 2017, Father Johannes Siebner SJ was Provincial. Because of a serious illness he was represented from the beginning of 2020 and died on July 16, 2020. Superior General Arturo Sosa appointed Father Jan Roser SJ as his successor on July 31, 2020.

Todays situation

Since April 27, 2021, the Jesuits in Germany have belonged to the Province of Central Europe (see above). Communities exist in Munich, Nuremberg, Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Bonn-Bad Godesberg and St. Blasien. The novitiate is in Nuremberg.

The order maintains various institutions in the field of education. These include the Philosophical-Theological University of Sankt Georgen with a seminary in Frankfurt am Main, the University of Philosophy in Munich and grammar schools in Berlin ( Canisius-Kolleg Berlin ), Hamburg ( Sankt-Ansgar-Schule ), St. Blasien ( Kolleg St. Blasien ) and Bonn-Bad Godesberg ( Aloisiuskolleg ), the last two are boarding schools. At these schools there are also Ignatian youth associations ( KSJ , J-GCL ), which are spiritually accompanied by Jesuits. In Ludwigshafen ( Heinrich-Pesch-Haus ) and Nuremberg ( Caritas-Pirckheimer-Haus ) there are Catholic academies in which Jesuits work and which are in part also directed by them. They offer a wide range of educational opportunities that, in addition to topics from the fields of theology and spirituality, also address current issues from politics, society and culture.

The second focus lies in the area of ​​spiritual guidance and retreat work. These include the religious retreat houses in Dresden ( HohenEichen House ), Elten on the Lower Rhine (Hoch-Elten House) and Wilhelmsthal in Upper Franconia (Gries House). In addition, Jesuits work in retreat houses of other providers, e.g. B. in Munich ( Schloss Fürstenried ), or offer retreat courses at other institutions of the order. In addition, there has been an offer without permanent houses since 2000: retreats on the street . Some Jesuits also work as spiritual in seminaries and in religious houses.

The parish and art station of St. Peter in Cologne, which is under the direction of the order, has specialized in the mediation of modern art and the promotion of contemporary organ music. Other active Jesuit churches can be found in Berlin ( St. Canisius ), Frankfurt ( St. Ignatius ), Göttingen ( St. Michael ), Hamburg ( St. Ansgar / Kleiner Michel ), Nuremberg ( St. Klara ) and Munich ( St. Michael , now meditation church ). Many of these churches are so-called city churches ; They try to address the urban population beyond the traditional parishes with a special spiritual and cultural program.

The German Jesuits publish three magazines: Jesuits, Voices of Time and Spirit and Life .

The Jesuit Refugee Service Germany is part of the global Refugee Service of the Jesuits (Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS), which has existed since the 1980th For example, he visits institutions for deportation detention ; Refugees and migrants are accompanied and supported.

Jesuits in Germany also work in university pastoral care and in hospital and prison pastoral care. In addition to the classic fields of activity, there are also diverse alternative projects such as Jesuits as workers in industry until 2016, in whose multicultural community in Berlin-Kreuzberg the " Exercises on the Street " were created. In Leipzig-Grünau , the Jesuit Father Bernd Knüfer has been running a discussion forum called the Pensive Club since 1998 .

There are also numerous former Jesuit churches that are no longer used by the order, for example

Jesuits in Lithuania

The Lithuanian-Latvian Province is based in Vilnius , the Lithuanian capital. In addition to the Jesuit churches of St. Ignatius and St. Casimir, the Order maintains the Jesuit grammar school there as well as the Jesuit grammar school in Kaunas and the Jesuit school in Šiauliai .

Jesuits in Austria

With 69 Jesuits (November 1, 2017) Austria is one of the small provinces of the order. The centers of the Order's presence are Vienna, where the Provincial Office is located, and Innsbruck. Father Bernhard Bürgler SJ has been provincial since July 31, 2014.

In Vienna, Jesuits work at the Jesuit Church and at the Cardinal König Haus (education and retreat house) in Vienna-Lainz. In Innsbruck, the order mainly looks after the international theological convict Canisianum and, in cooperation with non-Jesuits, the theological faculty of the university . Further locations are Graz, Linz and Steyr. Individual Jesuits also work in diocesan institutions (e.g. retreat department, religious vicariate), in seminaries, in prison, university and parish pastoral care. The formation of the order's offspring takes place in the novitiate in Nuremberg, the studies at various European places of study of the order.

Institutions (partly in cooperation with other providers):

Former Jesuit institutions (selection):

Jesuits in Switzerland

With 48 Jesuits (November 1, 2017), Switzerland is one of the small provinces of the order. Father Christian Rutishauser SJ has been provincial since July 31, 2012 .

The locations are the Jesuit communities in Bad Schönbrunn ob Zug, Basel, Geneva, Lucerne and Zurich (provincial office). Swiss Jesuits also work in China, Germany and Italy. The Swiss Jesuits are involved in two educational institutions ( Lassalle-Haus / Lassalle-Institut ) in Bad Schönbrunn and Notre-Dame de la Route in Friborg / Villars-sur-Glâne , five university communities and as the editor of a magazine (Revue Choisir).

From 1874 the Jesuits were banned in the Swiss constitution . It was not until the 1973 referendum that the Jesuit articles were repealed.


In the last third of the 19th century, the Jesuits were accused of being the executive organ of the "Roman Curies' intention to rule the world" and "an instrument of ecclesiastical absolutism". Because of the strong intellectual orientation of the order (or Jesuitism ) applied in the training and the willingness of its members to reinterpret reality for theological reasons, Jesuits have always been perceived as strongly polarizing. The abbreviation SJ (for Societas Jesu) after the name is popularly interpreted as "clever boys".

Jesuits in leading ecclesiastical offices

According to the instructions of their founder, Jesuits also undertake on the day of their last vows not to seek the office of bishop. Since they also vow special obedience to the Pope “de missionibus”, d. H. However, they cannot refuse to undertake to allow the Pope to send them anywhere, even if the Pope decides to appoint them to a bishopric. That is why there were and are bishops from the Jesuit order, although not many. So was z. B. the former Archbishop of Milan and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini , one of the favorites in the papal election after the death of John Paul II, Jesuit. With Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina , a Jesuit was elected Pope for the first time on March 13, 2013 (Pope's name Francis ).

Sexual abuse by Jesuits

Members of the Jesuit order also committed sexual abuse of children and young people in several countries .

United States

The Jesuit Province of Oregon in the northwest of the USA, which has facilities in the US states of Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, reached an agreement in 2009 with some of the victims of abuse. She then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, thus preventing a possible class action lawsuit by other abuse victims for financial compensation. After the victims argued that this Jesuit province was still prosperous because it owned several universities, schools, and properties, the Northwest Province agreed in March 2011 on approximately 500 abuse victims to receive approximately $ 166 million in compensation. Many of those affected were Native Americans or Alaskan people. The victims of abuse accused the Jesuits of having used the region as a deportation point for problem priests.


In Germany, a letter from Jesuit Klaus Mertes at the beginning of 2010 sparked a society-wide debate about cases of abuse within the Catholic Church and in other educational institutions. The investigation report commissioned by the Jesuit order on abuse in German institutions of the Jesuit order spoke in May 2010 of at least 205 victims who had been physically or sexually abused, among others at the Canisius College in Berlin , at the College of St. Blasien and at the Aloisius College in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Among other things, the report criticized the fact that the crimes had been systematically covered up by members of the order. In early 2011, the Jesuit order offered the victims - unlike later the German dioceses with staggered amounts of up to a maximum of 5000 euros - a lump sum payment of 5000 euros each, which was rejected by representatives of the victims as too low.

See also


Order history

Jesuit education

  • Bernhard Duhr: Text of the study regulations from 1599 and 1832. In: Bernhard Duhr: The study regulations of the Society of Jesus. Herder, Freiburg 1896.
  • François de Dainville: L'éducation des Jésuites (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles). Minuit, Paris 1978, ISBN 2-7073-0222-8 .
  • Rüdiger Funiok, Harald Schöndorf (ed.): Ignatius von Loyola and the pedagogy of the Jesuits. A model for school and personal development. Auer, Donauwörth 2000, ISBN 3-403-03225-6 .
  • Klaus Mertes : Learning responsibility - school in the spirit of the retreat (= Ignatian impulses, vol. 6). Echter, Würzburg 2004, ISBN 3-429-02537-0 .

other topics

Jesuits today

  • Peter Claus Hartmann: The Jesuits. Beck'sche Reihe 2171. Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-44771-6 .
  • Hans Zollner: Jesuits at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. The 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. In: Spirit and Life . 82 (2009), pp. 63-77.
  • Stefan Kiechle: Jesuits. Between cliché and reality. Topos plus, Kevelaer 2013, ISBN 978-3-8367-0848-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Jesuit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  3. Statistical data 2017 of the Society of Jesus ( Memento from September 25, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Ignatius von Loyola: Founding texts of the Society of Jesus . Ed .: Peter Knauer (=  German edition . Volume 2 ). Echter, Würzburg 1998, ISBN 978-3-429-01957-0 , p. 54, note 184 (with reference to Monumenta Ignatiana , Fontes narrativi II, p. 476).
  5. Sybille Grübel: “A true Jesuit” - Antonia Werr and the Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Childhood of Jesus. In: Ulrich Wagner (ed.): History of the city of Würzburg. 4 volumes, Volume I-III / 2, Theiss, Stuttgart 2001-2007; III / 1–2: From the transition to Bavaria to the 21st century. 2007, ISBN 978-3-8062-1478-9 , pp. 450-452 and 1303 f.
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