London: double celebration for British Jesuits

The British Jesuits' celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of their Restoration culminate in the first week of December with two events in London. Next Wednesday, 3 December, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor will be the principal celebrant at the 6pm Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Farm Street, W1, followed by a reception in the parish hall. The homily will be preached by Fr David Smolira SJ, the British Provincial since 1999. The following Saturday (6 December), a Special Conference to mark the Jesuits' bicentennial year will be held at Heythrop College in Kensington, with guest speakers from Ireland and the United States. The Society of Jesus was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, after pressure from various European Heads of State. In 1801, however, his successor, Pius VII, granted the English Jesuits permission to affiliate themselves to the surviving Russian Province, opening the way for their full Restoration two years later. In 1844, the Provincial of the (then) English Province, Fr Randal Lythgoe SJ, laid the foundation stone of the church in Mayfair the Jesuits' first permanent home in London. It opened five years later, on the feast of the founder of th Society of Jesus, St Ignatius Loyola, and since then has continued to serve the city centre workers and shoppers. The present parish priest at Farm Street, Fr Michael O'Halloran SJ, says the Jesuit community there are continuing the Jesuit tradition of service: "Many Jesuit missions became parishes after the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in 1850, and further parishes were entrusted to the Society by the bishops," he says. "Farm Street dates from the 'Gothic Revival' in English architecture, with the altar by Pugin. 150 years ago, it represented a bold and affirming statement by the Jesuits that the Catholic Church was once again a significant part of British society. Standing as we do in the heart of Mayfair, we continue to make God the centre of people's lives, through prayer, worship and our expressions of faith." Speakers at the Bicentennial Lectures at Heythrop College will include Fr John Padberg SJ, Director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources in Missouri since 1968. His talk, entitled 'The Special Remainder', will consider the Jesuits in Russia between 1773 and 1803. Professor Maurice Whitehead, the Head of Education at the University of Wales in Swansea, will cover the same period, looking at Jesuit Education during the Suppression. The third speaker will be Rev Dr Fergus 'Donoghue SJ, Archivist of the Irish Province, who will consider the Jesuits and the Irish Catholic Renaissance from 1814 to the beginning of the Second World War. The Special Conference to mark the anniversary of the Restoration of the British Jesuits starts at 10.30am on Saturday, 6 December. Admission is free.

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