Bishops pay tribute to British Jesuits

 Bishops and archbishops, both active and retired, have been contacting the Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Britain to congratulate the Province in its bi-centenary year. It was in May 1803 that the Society was restored as a Province, following 30 years of suppression by Pope Clement XIV and his successors. Throughout the 18th century, the order had attracted many enemies. There was also considerable pressure exerted on the pope by the Bourbon dynasty. And society and politics in Europe were shifting too: the mood of revolution was in the air, and the push towards republicanism was gathering momentum, particularly in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Eventually, the Brief of Suppression (Dominus ac Redemptor) was signed by the pope on 16 August 1773, and the Jesuits' vast missions, colleges, and churches were taken from them or destroyed. The Order survived however in Prussia and Russia, where Catherine the Great wanted the Jesuit schools to continue, and due to the efforts of Fr William Strickland SJ in particular, Pope Pius VII gave his approval in 1802 for British Jesuits to affiliate themselves to Russia. The following year, the British Province was restored in its own right, under the leadership of Fr Marmaduke Stone SJ, and it is that Restoration that the Society of Jesus will be celebrating in May. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was one of many members of the Catholic hierarchy in Great Britain who wrote to Fr David Smolira SJ offering their congratulations and thanks for the work done by the Jesuits over the past 200 years. Many have commented on the contribution made by the Jesuits to the spiritual life of Britain. One bishop thanked them for "building up the spiritual life of the diocese", while another wrote: "It is hard to put into words the great work done in education, in the fostering of prayer and spiritual life of so many people". There will be a number of special events held around the country to celebrate the restoration of the Jesuits in Britain, most noteably Mass and the dedication of a plaque at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire - the place where most of the survivors of the suppression renewed their vows in 1803.

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