We Jesuits, as you well know, have an attachment to the Holy See second to none. We pride ourselves in our loyalty and obedience.
It was, then, with a degree of perplexity that I read your recent words about proselytism, castigating it as ‘solemn nonsense, it makes no sense’.
Had I got it wrong all those years? I asked myself.Had my whole life been a waste of time? The years in Xavier, longing to preach Christ in exotic places; the years in Rome learning Chinese so that I could speak the gospel to the teeming millions in their own tongue; the search for a word for God in that strange language which would be to the Chinese both intelligible and faithful to the Scriptures and the Magisterium; had it all been squandered in a hopeless task?
I struggled; but I have come to see how right you are. We who went improvidently into what we foolish called the ‘mission field’ were blinded by the prejudices of our own times. It has taken the passage of five hundre years and the insight of a man of your wisdom and moral vision to make that plain.
I want you to know that I repent. I was inspired by our namesake of Assisi; but I now see that his impetuosity in seeking to convert Sultan al-Kamil, or be martyred in the attempt, was as misguided as my own fruitless efforts.
Be assured, Holy Father, of my constant prayers for all your ecumenical endeavours,
Your faithful son,
Francis Xavier, SJ