Pope Francis celebrated the 170th anniversary of «La Civiltà Cattolica». That’s how.

La Civiltà Cattolica has just celebrated its 170th anniversary. The magazine experiences a special relationship with the Pontiff, and therefore Pope Francis, to celebrate the event, has sent its director a message written by his own hand. The text is published on the cover of the first issue of the magazine of January 2020 that will be out January 4.

He starts out thus: «170 years ago Blessed Pius IX asked the Society of Jesus to found “La Civiltà Cattolica”». Francis recalls that the magazine was born at the explicit request of the Pope, who therefore was the founder of it.

In fact, January 9, 1850, Pius IX, who at the time resided at Portici, near Naples, received the then current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Jan Roothaan, in private audience. In that conversation he ordered the Jesuits to begin publishing the magazine.

The first issue was printed in Naples on April 6, 1850, in a small print shop located in courtyard of Via San Sebastiano. In these 170 years «La Civiltà Cattolica» has followed the history of the Church, Italy and the world. It has gone through two world wars, the Second Vatican Council, and seen the conclusion of 11 pontificates. Browsing the collection of 4,069 issues published to date means following contemporary history, entering into its twists and turns.

«La Civiltà Cattolica» today has become an «international magazine of the Jesuits». International through its ever broadening gaze on the world and its geopolitical and religious tensions; international because as of April 2017 the magazine is published in 5 languages; international because as of February 2018 the college of writers has expanded to a group of 12 «correspondents» from the whole world, but also to many other Jesuits from various nations. Pope Francis confirms us on this path when, in his note, he writes: «My wish for you is that you may be creative in God, exploring new paths, thanks also to the new international outlook that inspires the magazine: rising from the pages we hear the voices of so many frontiers listening to one another». And this dialogue between frontiers immerses us in the world and in its tensions, in its global political knots.

Francis asks us in his message: «Continue living the dynamism between life and thought with listening eyes, knowing that the “Catholic civilization” is that of the Good Samaritan». A striking statement that is similar to what he said for the first time to our director during the interview of 2013: «The Church is a field hospital». And Francis told us previously in 2017: yours «is a writing that tends to understand evil, but also pours oil on the open wounds to heal them».

The Pope asks us again: «Be discerning regarding language, combat hatred, small-mindedness and prejudice». This phrase expresses his awareness of how today a discernment not only about content but also about language is necessary. It is a theme which Francis has returned to many times. But today the fact that he asks us to combat small-mindedness strikes us above all. We remember well what he wrote in Amoris laetitia: «It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being». Francis wants our writing to embrace human life, to not have «blinders», not hide behind the obvious, not judge by rigid and deaf rules.

Finally, the Pope asks us: «And above all, do not be content with making superficial proposals or abstract synthesis: accept instead the challenge of the overflowing restlessness of the present time in which God is always at work». In these words we get a vision of the world that does not see an absent, disappointed God and therefore alien to reality but always «at work». In this framework, the challenge of the «restlessness of the present time», that Francis defines as «overflowing», is offered.

Francis asks «La Civiltà Cattolica» to not tame the restlessness, but to give it air, to perceive it and to discern it, without opting for easy and prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) solutions, capable of even extinguishing the Spirit that instead moves and originates some of this restlessness.

Director of La Civiltà Cattolica @CivCatt, Consultor at Pontifical @VaticanCultura, Board of Directors @Georgetown University. Jesuit.