In January 2012, the Jesuit European Office (OCIPE in Brussels) became the Jesuit European Social Centres (JESC). OCIPE had centres in Brussels, Budapest, Strasbourg and Warsaw. Whereas OCIPE in Strasbourg will remain, the offices in Budapest and Warsaw are now social centres of their respective provinces.

JESC is a separate apostolic and legal entity within the Conference of European Provincials. Through JESC, the Society of Jesus remains committed to a Europe where human rights, freedom and solidarity are the foundation of integration. Europe, especially the European Union, is currently undergoing the most acute political and economic crisis of its existence. While refusing alarmism, JESC continues, in line with the entire history of OCIPE, to seek a critical but constructive engagement with the EU.

Operationally, JESC will be organized in three areas of work:

- European Affairs: We retain an institutional presence in Brussels to the EU Institutions, and with ecclesial and civil society organizations that relate to them.

Social Coordination: We assume the task of social coordination previously carried out directly by the CEP, to encourage and promote the Jesuit European social sector.

Advocacy/Projects: Advocate on issues around corporate exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RPAN); on ecology, coordinating an international network which publishes the electronic newsletter Ecojesuit; and through the ‘Migration Desk’, a service to Jesuits involved in the care of migrants. JESC wishes to embody a Jesuit European engagement which authentically expresses Christian faith, remains close to the poor and marginalised, analyses the social reality with competence, and advocates for justice in European political structures.

JESC and the Crisis. JESC team online during the current crisis Together with other European Jesuit works, the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) is providing a crisis response that is coherent with its mission. Established by the Jesuit Provincials of Europe and the Near East, the mission of JESC is to promote faith and justice by reinvigorating the European common good. We are called to promote the spirit of solidarity and “vision and values for Europe” (the purpose of JESC). This has become particularly obvious in the current times. The CoViD-19 pandemic has revealed all too many weaknesses of the European project. For example, at the beginning of the crisis, Italy and Spain suffered a painful lack of solidarity from the part of other European countries and the EU itself. Some even presume that the European Union may be falling apart due to this and other crises. In order to respond to Europe’s “epochal challenge” (Pope Francis, April 12, on the crisis), JESC ongoing activities seem to be more relevant than ever: giving a voice to the excluded in the European political process and accompanying groups committed to rethink Europe; bringing closer the Jesuit social apostolate (action through service, advocacy, formation and research); accompanying the European ecological transition towards increased sustainability, relying on different ecological apostolates in Europe; reinforcing Jesuit and Christian networks through youth leadership formation. European Leadership Programme with Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee and a Jesuit alumnus. The Pope’s warning Pope Francis’ understanding of the current crisis may come as a shock. Five years ago, the Pope declared (Mother) Earth as “Our Sister” and “our Common Home.” In his encyclical Laudato Si’, he called attention to this Common Home as crying out to us, “burdened and laid waste”. Coinciding with “the tragic coronavirus pandemic”, the Pope dedicated his General Audience of April 22nd to the Earth Day celebration, going further in his warnings. He announced that “if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly”. The Pope’s argument is that the earth does not forgive and he continues: “There will be no future for us if we destroy the environment that sustains us". As the Pope may rightly fear a “very ugly” response, we are called to bring about a necessary balance in order to avoid a dooms-day scenario. The Pope speaks of “a harmonious relationship with the earth”, calling us to renew “our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family.” So, how does JESC collaborate in this call? We propose a response of vulnerability and solidarity. Vulnerability: We are mortal yet hopeful This epochal crisis reminds us that our planet is vulnerable and that we are mortal. Exposed to a practically invisible virus we find ourselves almost powerless. In overcrowded camps, refugees are dying due to malnutrition, violence and now the virus; in nursing homes the elderly and others left behind are being swiped away by the same virus; the essential-services providers are risking and losing their lives. Moreover, the globally poor handling of the crisis has caused a decay of our social institutions (as, for example, the threats to European integration or to EU’s rule of law, etc.); and there are those who abuse the crisis for their political or financial benefit. We are vulnerable mortals. Yet, our mortality and our powerlessness do not have the last say. Only by facing our death with humility and faith will we be saved. Accepting our vulnerability may be one of the most freeing and spiritual remedies we can offer. It is the recognition of our own vulnerability that will bring us closer in this crisis. Mutual trust, which we need to deal with the conflicts and crises we face, can only emerge among people and societies that are vulnerable enough to open up and come closer to one another. By knowing our limits and trusting more in God’s saving work around and in us, we will be able to walk humbly with the excluded and collaborate effectively in the caring for our Common Home. So, let us build on our vulnerability as a resource as we journey through this crisis. In JESC, we journey with others through this global crisis. The “Closer through Crisis” campaign is one of our responses. First, we have decided to share the simple joys of our daily routines to navigate together through the quarantine time and to rediscover the power of vulnerability. So, we produce and share articles, videos, links, and projects to its audience to encourage and challenge people to stay reflective and hopeful during this period. Next, we highlight different initiatives, opinions and research from a range of authors to represent a variety of institutions and political perspectives. That allows us to enlarge and enrich debate and discussion. Moreover, the campaign has allowed us to call for and build on solidarity. Solidarity: Jesuits help millions of people globally Pope Francis recently stated that “As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst” (General Audience, April 22). Our #CloserThroughCrisis campaign helps us to share the responses of many Jesuit social projects to this crisis. We found that we are very innovative and concrete on showing solidarity. Let as show a few examples how this is true in Europe and around the globe. Zoom preparatory meeting of the SJES 2019 Jubilee Congress in Rome: participants from Europe’s social centres and various justice works. In Europe, our Jesuit organizations and partners put themselves at the service of the weakest in different ways. Currently a member of the ALBOAN team and the Delegate for discernment and apostolic planning, Patxi Álvarez SJ recently stated: “Serving the most vulnerable people is a responsibility, but also a privilege”. He adds that in this moment we should think of the possibility to serve others as a “gift” and a task to accomplish. Moreover, various solidarity and advocacy actions have been carried out by our social centres: we can begin in Barcelona where Cristianisme i Justícia dedicates a whole section of its website to reflections on Coronavirus in a faith-justice perspective and how this situation affects the most vulnerable; in Dublin, The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice continues its battle against overcrowded prisons and climate change, both accentuated by the COVID-19 crisis. We could also mention our centres of reflection and social action in Paris, Milano, Munich, Lisbon, Budapest, Warsaw, Brussels, Palermo and beyond. Do visit their websites and publications. Globally, JESC has participated in conducting a comprehensive survey that assesses the Jesuit response to the pandemic (coordinated by the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in Rome). The first unofficial and rough results show that we are already helping millions of people worldwide. (The numbers and the maps will be published soon.) It is a response faithful to the Jesuit magis: we are embracing, promoting and carrying out forms of solidarity that are becoming increasingly global. Our task now is to coordinate further this Jesuit response. Over 200 participants of the SJES Jubilee Congress.  "Only together, and looking after the most fragile (members of society) can we win global challenges," the Pope said on the 22nd of April. How so? First, let us keep in mind that a “very ugly” response of Our Sister earth is indeed a likely global scenario. In addition, if we handle badly this crisis that combines health, ecological and economic components, the poor will be hit even harder. Second, our advocacy work in Brussels and around Europe confirms that we need and want to stay together as a family of nations, close to the poorest and the most excluded of our society. In this sense, the #CloserThroughCrisis campaign has the same objective: Serving the poor and promoting justice. Peter Rožič SJ Director of JESC and JCEP Social Delegate
The Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) announces: we are excited to start our campaign hashtag#CloserthroughCrisis. We will reach out with a daily post to share the sense of hashtag#community and hashtag#hope in this difficult time. JESC is part of the social responsibility movement in this hashtag#COVID-19 global crisis. We ourselves are one week into hashtag#confinement. Our team is adapting by hashtag#home office and face the same challenges and opportunities as many others. We want to contribute by spreading hashtag#Joy and will make our post part of your daily routine. Ps. You can find Sunday Mass streaming service in different languages on our website https://bit.ly/39cR5mg hashtag#Closer hashtag#CommonHome hashtag#Together hashtag#Quarantine hashtag#Jesuits hashtag#Virtual hashtag#Journeying
Don't give up hope. In the present situation of confusion and dismay, a first thought should go to the victims of the corona pandemic. There is so much suffering and despair all over the world. There are so many families affected who even cannot say goodbye to their beloved ones. As always the poor are the most severely hit. How shall people in a country like El Salvador survive under confinement, if they earn their poor living on a daily base selling fruits in the streets? But there are also many signs of solidarity and hope: medical doctors and nurses who risk their lives caring for the sick; hospitals who are receiving patients from other countries; a 75 years old Italian priest who is offering his life for a younger man. It is too early to reflect on the consequences of this pandemic. But we can reflect on the awareness it creates. The corona crisis makes us aware that health is the most precious universal common good and that it is globally vulnerable. It makes us also aware that we are all in the same boat and one human family. The crisis makes us aware that we have to rethink and to reshape our present model of globalisation taking into account the poor, the natural environment and the future generations. Pope Francis with his Encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care for our common home offers a compass and a roadmap for this. The main message of Laudato sí is that our world is a wonderful gift but that we are putting under threat its future by our way of living. That is why we need a fundamental change in our model of consumption and production. Pope Francis asks for an “ecological conversion”. A radical change needs radical motivations and a new mindset. A central insight of Laudato Si’ is that everything is deeply connected: the safeguarding of the environment cannot be divorced from ensuring justice for the poor and finding answers to the structural problems of the global economy. The corona crisis is another demonstration of the interconnectedness of our world. In a couple of weeks, the virus has spread all over the world by people traveling. The virus doesn´t know or respect any frontiers. To stop the pandemic the countries must look and cooperate beyond their borders. We feel more and more interdependent from each other, we are all vulnerable, we are connected globally for the best and the worst. We should give up our collective short-termism and understand solidarity as an intragenerational and intergenerational challenge. This is similar to climate change which is another central theme of Laudato sí. The Pope pleads to correct the existing models of growth incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, openness to life, concern for the family, social equality, the dignity of workers and the rights of future generations. Already five years ago he insisted on the gravity of the problems and asked to set in place a new civilization based on fraternity and equality. The current crisis shows that governments are able to take urgent, radical and very costly measures to face imminent danger. Why don´t we take comparable measures to face dangerous climate change? Climate change is not contagious but it is threatening the future of our planet and the decent living conditions of the future generations. Another innovation of Laudato Si’ is to consider the atmosphere, the oceans and the tropical forests as natural global common goods. In the present crisis, we can add health as the principal social common good. The global common goods cannot be solely under the rule only of national states but they belong to all humanity. So the principle of the universal destination of goods must be applied. We have a common but differentiated responsibility for these common goods and to discharge that responsibility we need democratic governance of them. The European Union is a historical example of this. In a pessimistic view, some people fear that the coronavirus can accelerate the disintegration of the European Union. At the beginning of the crisis, there were reflexes of “every country for itself” which went straight against the idea of the Union. In Italy, people asked painfully: “Where is the European Union?” In the meanwhile, the EU has come up with some concrete measures of solidarity: French or Italian patients in serious conditions who were received in German hospitals, exchange of medical materials between member countries. It should extend urgently also to the refugees who are living in inhuman conditions in the camps of the Greek islands and are seriously threatened by the virus. But in the long run, the major challenge will be how to handle in a spirit of solidarity the deep threats on the economy. We are all in the same boat and we will survive or sink together. In a number of recent articles in the newspapers very fundamental questions came up about the meaning of life and what we are doing, about what is the vocation of human beings in this world. Non-believing humanists pointed to the crisis as a kind of “secular Lent” which brings us back to essential values like life, love, and solidarity and forces us to relativize many things which till up to now we considered indispensable and untouchable. We shouldn´t instrumentalize this crisis in the sense of justifying Christian values. But principles of Christian social thinking such as human dignity, solidarity, the preferential option for the poor and sustainability can be guiding principles to build up a new model of economy and society after the pandemic. Pope Francis prays before the crucifix in St Marcelo church on the Via del Corso, Rome (©Vatican Media) In times of disaster inevitably comes up the question: Where is God in all this? God is in the victims of the pandemic, in the medical doctors and the nurses who care for the affected, in the scientists who relentlessly search for an antivirus vaccine, in the volunteers who are committed for the needy, in the workers who keep running our daily life, he is in all who are praying in these days for the others, in those who keep alive hope. Martin Maier SJ JESC Secretary for European Affairs
On 10 December, the policy and advocacy workshop "Tax Justice and Poverty" was held. This event was co-organised by JESC, COMECE - The Catholic Church in the EU and the Jesuits in Europe and Africa with the participation of representatives of the EU institutions as well as tax experts from development organisations from all over the world. The discussion was based on the 2012-17 research report by the Jesuit Mission, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka and the Jesuit Hakimani Centre in Nairobi. An important topic discussed was that Africa loses more in illicit financial outflows than the amount received from ODA and FDI. The value of the Church's contributions in the struggle to obtain more fiscal justice in order to fight poverty does not lie so much in the presentation of brilliant social and legal analyses. The church's role has been to remind people of the ultimate goal of all economic, social and political means: -to increase the well-being and dignity of all human beings, -to assist  everyone in developng their abilities and allow their active participation in the human effort to build our Common Home for us and the generations to come. Statement of Franck Janin Opening Statement Charlie Chilufya SJ
The Weekend Seminar Call to Public Life was held from the 11th to the 13th of October in Brussels, hosted majorly by the facilities of the new Jesuit Collège Matteo Ricci. The intention of this three-day Seminar was to Call people to engage actively in their Community and Public Life. A set of questions were raised during the sessions, hence, creating a space for dialogue and aiming to build upon a constructive approach on the European Union Project and besides, understand our rights and responsibilities from different levels of advocacy and citizenship. Social matters were alternated with spiritual sessions for an in and out conscience experience. ¨To be engaged, aware of huge problems in our society: How do we achieve our goals in political life? ​¨Can we rediscover our passion by sharing our hopes for a better world?¨ ¨How to develop its social leadership: Ensure that people are respectful, listening to each other, sharing common values?¨ The Jesuit European Social Centre, jointly with the Jesuit Alumni of Europe (Part of the World Union Jesuit Alumni), were the organisers of the Seminar. The activities were potential insights into the functioning of the European Union, to Living in Community following Spiritual guidance and to provide with further understanding of the concept of Leadership. This was especially interesting from the point of view of the European Leadership Programme Fellows, who also participated in every session of the Seminar. The idea of organizing a Seminar to shed a light on Public life matters emerged from the assumption that it is a Social pillar which enables people to understand current realities and find solutions to make visionary changes for a better future. Given we share a Common Home, Public life cannot survive without a shared consciousness that gets a say on direct representation organisms and is projected by decision making bodies in this case of the European Union. Even at the best of times, civility should not be a trivial concern. Beneath this surface lie all kinds of passions and irrationality that needs to be listened to and be expressed as common objectives. Leadership today is about finding ways to become a citizen that is conscience about himself and has consciousness on his surroundings and people. The opening session, held at the Jesuit Collège Matteo Ricci, started with an introductory speech by JESC Secretary for Justice and Ecology Edmond Grace SJ on Faith and Politics. Alain Deneef, president of World Union of Jesuit Alumni (WUJA) and the President of the Pouvoir Organisateur at the l’asbl ‘Collège Matteo Ricci’, greeted all the participants and gave the word to JESC Secretary for Leadership Botond Feledy, who introduced the audience to the session’s speakers; Marton Hajdu, Joint Research Center, working at the European Commission, and Victoria Martin de la Torre, spokesperson for the President of the Socialist and Democrats Group in the European Parliament. Ms Martin de la Torre based her speech on her book “Europe, a Leap into the Unknown: A Journey Back in Time to Meet the Founders of the European Union”, an investigation into the ambitions and purposes of the Founding Fathers of the EU. She also gave an account on her experience working for the European Parliament. She was confident in her European values and set a comfortable environment for the commencement day of the CtPL Seminar.   On Saturday morning, Edmond Grace SJ led a meditation and prayer session that sought self-reflection. It was followed by the “Fishbanks” Role Play simulation exercise. “Fishbanks” is a simulation game about natural resource management in a competitive environment. Participants played the role of managers of a fishing company and their goal was to ensure the long-term success of their business. Several companies are fishing on the same sea at the same time – this leads to a business challenges and sometimes hard, strategic dilemmas as well. After some mental stimulation, it was time for some body awakening in the format of a Tour around the European Quarters led by Alain Deneef. The second day of the Seminar concluded with an evening with Mr Diego Canga Fano, Former Head of the Cabinet of the European Parliament’s Former President Antonio Tajani. He gave his testimony on the European Union and the future of the institutions as an experienced EU staff member. The moderator this time was JESC Director Peter Rožič SJ, who opened the event with a reflection on the importance to exercise body and mind. The day ended with a nice dinner where there was space for some conviviality and conversation. Sunday was the closing day. Edmond Grace SJ concluded the Seminar with morning meditation and prayer, followed by a solidarity, conscience and reconciliation workshop. The Collège Matteo Ricci hosted a moment of discussion on paramount values and reflections from the impacts and thoughts on the weekend. To finalise, the ELP Fellows had one last simulation game monitored by Bela Kuslits, Sustainability Expert. The STRATAGEM  is a computer-assisted simulation game developed for the UN and the World Bank to train senior experts. The Fellows impersonated ministers of a government through 10 election cycles (game rounds). They had to develop a developing country and convert it into a sustainable nation. They had to face decisions, circumscribed to a given description and portfolio, in five ministries: Food & Environment, Goods & Services, Energy, Population, Finance. While the model is relatively simple, its results are surprisingly realistic and often these can be directly compared to real-world historical pathways. All in all, it was a weekend where the highlights were community building, creating bonds, sharing values and debating about our European shared reality. Alba Requejo
The Second Cohort of the European Leadership Programme started on the last weekend of September. The eight new, young leaders were recruited from different European countries such as Italy, Hungary, France and Belgium, following the same personal ambition: To develop in their leadership skills, to get to know Brussels from an insider’s perspective and to practice the Jesuit principle of “Magis”, the wish to do more for others, to be a (wo)man for others. The five months long Programme is based on five segments, which all contribute to the formation of the Fellows. he aim is to prepare them for the serving type of leadership. Brussels, the European capital is the new home for our ELP Fellows, which allows them to be immersed in the corridors of the institutions of the European Union and be surrounded by the daily flux of lobbyists, eurocrats, Jesuits, diplomats and NGO representatives. Through a set of interdisciplinary methods, such as spiritual coaching, community life for self-development, informal talks with our high-level guest speakers and a variety of social events, as well as by practicing the everyday reflection, they will experience all aspects of the life of a leader. The ELP team firmly believes that only such a holistic approach is arming the Fellows for the unavoidable challenges and pitfalls that they will be facing during their professional career. This is the second edition of ELP, running from the 1st October 2019 to the 28th February 2020. The pilot edition was led by Fr. Peter Rožič SJ, Director of the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC), who had to develop an institutional home for such a Programme inside JESC. The Inaugural Weekend was orchestrated by JESC European Leadership Programme Manager and Secretary for Leadership Botond Feledy,, ELP Assistant Zsófia Voda and JESC’s Director’s Executive Assistant Eleonora Vitale.  One of the highlights of the weekend was a city walk organised by the Cornerstone Network in downtown Brussels, where we recited the local history through the lense of social justice. The Fellows got acquainted with the place that will host their pathway of intellectual and personal growth for the following five months – to begin with. For the weekend closure, the ELP Fellows had the chance to listen to an introduction by Fr. Guy Martinot SJ at La Viale Europe. In line with the Community segment of ELP, they were offered some inspiration to do volunteering work by David Anderson, who spoke on behalf of Serve the City Brussels. Here, the Fellows will be involved in different projects once a week as part of their personal growth process. David highlighted the importance of helping people to make a city grow in the right direction, based on the premise that the essence of life is about people and creating bonds between us. Beginning this week, the Fellows will receive guidance from a personal coach and lectures from High Level speakers representing different organisations and institutions. If you want to receive more information on ELP events do not hesitate to follow our account on instagram @jesc-elp; our Facebook Page European Leadership Programme or subscribe to our Monthly ELP Newsletter.