Pope Francis has surprisingly proclaimed a Joseph Year with special indulgences. He places the foster father of Jesus at the centre as a special role model. Father Ansgar Wucherpfennig SJ has summarised what Pope Francis wants to achieve with this year and what thematic priorities he wants to set with it. His habilitation is about that very Joseph. "The world needs fathers, but rejects despots, i.e. those who are possessive in order to fill their own emptiness," writes Pope Francis. On 8 December he proclaimed a Year of St Joseph, and his new apostolic exhortation "With Fatherly Hearts" is to accompany this year. It is typical of Pope Francis that he also speaks personally in this letter. He has let flow into the keys what his "heart is full of". Even though he often writes "we", he writes of his veneration for Joseph of Nazareth, and of the fact that the world needs father figures like this Joseph. A new 'normality' in which no one is excluded With the Joseph Year, the Pope commends the world and the Church to the intercession of this saint. Catholic Christians can also be granted reconciliation in the sacraments of confession and communion this year, as regulated by a Roman decree. Pope Francis, however, gives this year another meaning. To this end, he takes up the "new normality", which has become common parlance, and gives it a different accent from the usual one: the Year of St Joseph can establish "a new 'normality' in which no one is excluded". This is his suggestion for the coming Joseph Year: It can become the year of a new justice, in politics but not least also in the Catholic Church. He reminds us of many who, in the pandemic, are suddenly publicly "writing a significant page in our history": "nurses and carers, supermarket workers, cleaning staff", etc. And he thinks of unemployment, which affects many: Musicians, artists and other cultural workers, many people in the catering and tourism industries. Spiritually, the Pope moves in his letter close to the Gospels in the New Testament. He writes clearly that Jesus is called there "the son of Joseph", and only later and only once in the 15 pages does he use the time-honoured but somewhat dusty ecclesiastical terms for Joseph as "Mary's bridegroom" and "Jesus' foster father". Joseph went through a learning process Joseph is the first person to be called "righteous" in the New Testament, even before his son Jesus. The evangelist Matthew tells how Joseph thereby comes into conflict with the Torah, because Mary, his betrothed wife, publicly visibly carries a child in her womb that is not his. He is determined to separate from her secretly and thus not expose her publicly. In doing so, he would have followed a path that is quite widely trodden by the Catholic Church: namely, to publicly proclaim the rules of the law, but to grant mercy in silence - "in camera caritatis". But Matthew tells how Joseph goes through a learning process, relying on his dreams and on the messenger of God who speaks to him. He publicly accepts Mary as his wife, and thus becomes the father of the strange child with whom she becomes pregnant. Joseph decides that simple faithfulness to the law is the wrong way to go. There is a principle of justice that is superior to the letter and has the common good in mind. Biblical wisdom knows this justice, and contrasts it with the behaviour of evildoers, who often enough invoke the enacted law with their behaviour: "The righteous rejoices when justice is done, but the evildoer" - such as the despot Herod - "is terrified" (Prov. 21:15); "the righteous has understanding for the legal dispute of the poor" (Prov. 29:7). Joseph learns that justice means more than following written laws. A father in obedience Pope Francis therefore calls Joseph a father in obedience, reasoning: "Today Joseph presents himself to this world, where psychological, verbal and physical violence against women is evident, as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man who, although not in possession of all the information, decides in favour of Mary's good name, dignity and life." The beginning of the New Testament thus tells of Joseph of Nazareth as the Pope describes him, not possessive, but giving space: space for love, for justice, space to live. It will be exciting to see where God will lead the Church and society through the intercession of this saint in the coming year.
Shortly before the first Advent Sunday, the Catholic university community of LMU Munich "Leo 11" met in a rather unconventional way this time to get in the mood for Advent. The planned Advent wreath-building took place on the internet, but still allowed for a lively exchange and Christmas spirit with biscuits. On Wednesday, the students were able to pick up materials from Father Holger Adler SJ throughout the day and then gathered in front of their computers on Thursday evening. The idea for a joint Advent wreath-building event in the KHG had already arisen in the midsummer temperatures on the KHG planning day. "Unfortunately, we couldn't meet in the cafeteria as originally planned and get creative together with mulled wine, gingerbread and Christmas music. But we didn't want to let that stop us from getting in the mood for Advent. No reason for us to call the whole thing off! Sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation!" This is the enthusiastic report of the two students Julia and Theresa, who took part in the action on Thursday. On Wednesday, they were able to pick up wreath blanks, candles, fir branches, wire and all kinds of decorative materials at the KHG, before they started tying the wreaths on Thursday evening. With punch and nice conversations, an Advent atmosphere arose and the evening flew by. Barely 2 hours later, the first of the 17 Advent wreaths created were proudly presented to the others via the camera. "Thanks to Zoom, we were still able to enjoy the event together.
The Catholic child protection expert Hans Zollner calls for a stronger restriction of access to child pornography on the Internet. This is technically feasible, but is not wanted by many for economic reasons, the Jesuit criticises in a new podcast "Würde.Leben" (Dignity.Life), which he is producing with the Catholic media house Sankt Michaelsbund in Munich. The first episode was published on Thursday on mk-online.de with a view to the World Day for the Rights of the Child (20 November). The theologian and psychotherapist heads the Catholic Child Protection Centre CCP at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The abuse scandals in the Catholic Church challenged people to convert, said the 54-year-old. The church must first be there for those affected, who share in their suffering, and must not worry about itself first. "For that is the perception that it is first and foremost about ourselves, about our institution, about our reputation and standing. Zollner said that awareness of the need to do something about these crimes had grown considerably in the church, but not enough. "I get upset when arguments come up in the church, such as 'The subject will soon be over, let's get this over with now and then we can get back to our everyday lives'. The Jesuit sees the Catholic church in principle as a "children's rights and child protection organisation, even if that sounds strange to European ears after the abuse scandals". The church had its specific responsibility and a special accountability, but it could not act as a know-it-all. The podcast will be updated every four weeks with new episodes, says the Michaelsbund. Zollner wants to encourage as many people in the German-speaking world as possible to talk openly about sexual and other forms of abuse. According to the editors, the series will deal with the protection of children and adults, perpetrator profiles and the fear of exposure, among other things. Jesuiten Deutschland
Gratitude campaign in response to the crisis Jesuits from Germany, Austria and Switzerland start the campaign "Nevertheless grateful!” With this, they are giving an answer to the increasing sense of crisis in the middle of the second wave of the Corona pandemic with the help of Ignatian spirituality. The past year was challenging for the whole of society. Social life has now been shut down for the second time, people have to keep their distance, fear for their livelihoods and many institutions have closed. The crisis reveals our problems like under a burning glass; the insecurity and fears are changing our society. There would be enough reasons to despair. On the other hand, there are studies that underline that a grateful lifestyle can strengthen the immune system and make people more resistant to crises. St. Ignatius of Loyola was already convinced of the effects of gratitude and practiced this lifestyle in his daily review, remembering every evening what good things happened to him. With the campaign "Nevertheless grateful" the Jesuits bring the Ignatian Daily Review closer to the people. "In countless conversations we experience that it is difficult for many at the moment to discover the positive in their lives. We want to help the people. The campaign 'Nevertheless grateful!' calls for a conscious change of perspective, especially in the face of the pandemic. Even under difficult circumstances, something can be found for which one can be grateful. Ignatian spirituality offers an effective method for this," explains Father Martin Stark SJ, Head of Communication & Fundraising. In the Ignatian Daily Review one reflects on one's day and looks back on what was experienced, always starting with the good. For this I would like to thank explicitly. Only then can everything else come into view. "This of course requires a certain amount of training," knows Pia Dyckmans, public relations officer of the German Province of the Jesuits. "Therefore we have created a gratitude diary, in which the daily review is explained and a month-long diary can be kept about what one is grateful for. By writing things down, things become more clearly recognisable, which increases the effect. With the gratitude diary, we are giving people a tool to help them focus on what is important and thus to be able to approach Christmas in a positive way, especially in this special year.  On a community wall, concerns can be shared. "This should sensitise us all and we are sure that there will be many surprises to be found there. Sharing multiplies the effect of gratitude and then encourages others as well". Jesuits, too, will report on various channels during the campaign, for which they are personally grateful nonetheless.
Fr Stan Swamy SJ (Stanislaus Lourduswamy), 83 years old is a well-known human rights activist. He was arrested and detained on the 8 October by the National Investigation Agency of India. They accused Fr Stan Swamy SJ of having links with terrorist organisations.  Read more about Fr. Swami Worldwide, the Catholic community and social rights activists are calling for Fr Stan Swamy’s immediate release. Many protests have already taken place in major cities across India, including Ranchi, in the state of Jharkhand where Fr Stan Swamy SJ has spent the last five decades fighting for the rights of Dalits and Adivasi people. Also in Rome and different European Countries there have been protest actions against this intervention of the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA). As of 14 October 2020, almost 100 representatives of human rights and grassroots organisations and other supporters of Father Swamy are on hunger strike to draw attention to his situation. Various petitions for the release of Father Swamy on change.org already had over 50,000 signatures as of 15.10.2020. Germany On Thursday, 15 October, the German Jesuit Province and its international aid agency jesuits worldwide wrote a letter to the German Foreign Office in which they call on Foreign Minister Heiko Maaß to lobby the Indian government for Father Swamy. Jan Roser SJ, Provincial of the German Jesuits, explains: "It seems obvious to us that the Indian state is taking the opportunity to intimidate him and others because of their opposition to state repression and discrimination against minorities and their rights. Father Swamy's work included documenting abuses of power and arbitrariness against indigenous youth, those wrongly arrested and those held in prison. For example, he initiated public interest litigation in favour of 3000 indigenous prisoners. In the letter to the Foreign Minister, Jan Roser SJ clarifies: "Human rights defenders must be sure that their work is respected and protected. Also and especially in a large and complex state such as India, where there has been increased oppression and violence against non-Hindus and minorities since Prime Minister Modi's BJP party came to power and the increasingly unbridled agitation of Hindu nationalists. It is necessary to support those who continue to work for human rights and peaceful coexistence among the many peoples and groups in the Indian Union". United Kingdom Jesuit Priests and their lay associates working for the Jesuits in Britain protested on October 22 outside the High Commission of India. The protest was organised by Jesuit Missions in London. Fr Damian Howard SJ, the Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, attempted to hand in a letter to the Indian High Commissioner, Ms Gaitri Issar Kumar, calling upon the Indian government to guarantee Fr Stan Swamy’s well-being and to obtain his release him from prison. Fr Howard said: “Fr Swamy is a fellow Jesuit who has given his life to solidarity with a group of marginalised people. Now he is the one who is suffering and it is our duty to stand in solidarity with him.” The High Commission refused to meet anyone from the delegation nor to accept the letter in person. The letter was later posted to the High Commissioner after the protest took place. Update on Fr. Stan Swamy by Fr Xavier Jeyaraj (SJES, Rome) - 29 October  Update en Español - Update en Français  
"I would never have believed that by doing nothing I could feel so intensely a supporting ground. "I was irritated and at the same time fascinated by the fact that there were almost no guidelines or hints. I was free" - Voices during the evaluation of the contemplative practice days at the church of the Jesuits Saint Peter in the centre of Cologne. During the last week of each summer holiday, this parish church, which is special because of its consistently contemporary profile, takes spiritual time out during the day: Five days of meditation from 9 to 17 o'clock. The practice is to do nothing, think nothing, let go and let yourself fall in time in order to be present in the present. The paradoxically formulated call for "Retreat from the City in the City - retreat from the city in the city" brings together a dozen men and women, who trace the silence in the church space, which has been spiritually shaped for more than 1000 years. Participants are by no means limited to the circle of the congregation: a woman with two growing children, who consciously allows herself an experience of silence and, thanks to the holidays, only takes time for her family in the evening. Or the administrative employee who uses his first week of holiday to take a break to find out what life has in store for him. Some want to pray more intensively, others want to explore their relationship with the church in the face of the crises. All are united by a sense that there is a depth dimension to everyday life in the city, with its demands and deadlines, which is seldom found in the hectic pace of everyday life. Distance from the hustle and bustle often helps to get a better idea of this hidden foundation. But not everyone can go to a different place or even to a conference or retreat centre. That is why the Saint Peter Art Station offers such days of contemplation. They stand in the tradition of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius "as easy exercises in everyday life". Right in the heart of Cologne they want to set an accent as a combination of retreats in everyday life or on the street. At a deliberate distance from the so-called normal life of the cities with their speed, these days of contemplation without telephone and internet are a time of mere existence. The largely empty church room, in its openness, offers the place for seven mediation sessions in silence, each lasting 40 minutes, and 20 minutes of relaxation while walking. At midday a simple meal is nourished, prepared as part of the exercise. Physical exercises and accompanying conversation are also included. In the evening, there is an invitation to a simple Eucharistic celebration. This kind of retreat from the city in the middle of the city is not an escape from the challenges of reality. Being in the now allows us to perceive reality as it is in an intense way. In the silence I learn to perceive both more attentively, the basic melody of my life and the background noise of the city's hustle and bustle. The place of the retreat is not on a greenfield site, but within walking distance of one of Germany's busiest shopping streets, and in the courtyard by the church there is a mobile drug counselling centre. When I approach these places in the basic attitude of quiet collection and presence and let the realities come to me, they move. In all this I sense a reason that carries and lasts. Patient existence in the present enables the practitioner to touch holy ground and to feel the secret of the divine name in the present: "I am who I am here". Stephan Kessler S.J.