The history of the Jesuits is a topic of great interest for many fields of historical research. The centuries old exploits of Jesuits all over the world, as well as their frequent involvement in the social and political lives of nations, and the contributions of not few of them for developments in the sciences and the arts, are documented in innumerable letters, reports, official records and files, manuscripts and publications. Since the beginning of the Society, the regular written reporting was considered essential for the government of the missions of the Jesuits soon sent to all the corners of the planet. Each province and the General Curia in Rome maintain archives committed to preserving documents and making them available to researchers for consultation.

Through the initiative and coordination of ARSI (Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus) the archivists of the provinces of the JCEP began to meet in 2020, with the aim of promoting collaboration and networking between the Society’s archives in Europe. The first common project has been to prepare a list of some materials in the various archives for the period 1939-1958, following the accessibility to the documents of the pontificate of PIUS XII opened by the Vatican Archives.

According to the wishes of the 36th General Congregation. A glimpse of history: I joined ARSI in 2012, as an assistant to the Director. The main mission of ARSI has been to preserve the documents of the archive, and to make them available to researchers who come for consultation. The 36th General Congregation (2016) invited the Society of Jesus to grow in discernment, in collaboration and in networking. From then on, a committee began to meet at the Curia to reflect on the mission of ARSI and Father General’s Library. At the beginning of 2018 we began a process of consultation with some Jesuits in the historical field, and with some academic institutions about the possibilities of collaboration with ARSI, with the idea of creating a “network of Jesuit archives”. In May 2018 we - Jesuit archivists in Rome - began to meet in order to promote collaboration. The idea then arose to organize a meeting of archivists from some of the main archives of the Society. In September 2018 I was appointed Administrative Director of ARSI. An international meeting of the Society’s archivists was held on 12-15 February 2019 here at the General Curia. As a result, we created a “digital space” to share information from our archives. Three groups of archivists started working online, with specific themes. We then began to think about organising meetings of archivists from the Conferences of Europe (JCEP), Latin America (CPAL) and Asia Pacific (JCAP). From May 2019 we have held video conferences with the participants of the February meeting. Meeting of JCEP archivists: In July 2019 a proposal was made to organise a meeting of European archivists at KADOC (Leuven, Belgium) in the year 2020, with the aim of promoting collaboration and networking between the Society’s archives in Europe. Due to the COVID crisis, we decided in April 2020 to suspend the meeting in Leuven, and to have instead an “online meeting” of two days, 29 and 30 September 2020. From that moment on, we worked on the preparation of this meeting via email and TEAMS conversations with the archivists. The virtual meeting of the European archivists took place 29-30 September 2020. The participants included 13 archivists of the JCEP, Fr Franck Janin (President of JCEP), and ARSI staff. On the second day, a proposal was made to prepare a list of some materials in our various archives for the period 1939-1958 (considering that the Vatican Apostolic Archives made documents from the pontificate of Pius XII accessible in February 2020). This proposal was received with enthusiasm. The evaluation of the online meeting was positive. In particular, the archivists were impressed by the presentation made by Christian Taoutel, of the Beirut archive, showing the damage caused by the explosion in the harbour in August 2020 and the work that remains to be done. I am happy and satisfied with this new step towards collaboration between the Society’s archives and I hope we can continue on this path. Virtual meetings with the Asia-Pacific and Latin American Conferences are being planned for 2021.