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This Month in Jesuit History: New Religious Order Approved on Sept. 27


Pope Paul III

It was this time of year when Pope Paul III formally approved a new religious order with broad ambitions.

The year was 1540, and a small, ardent group of believers had proposed a new order dedicated to helping souls, by which they meant helping the whole person. They would provide physical nourishment, knowledge and other help as they sought to bring people closer to God.

They bound themselves to go anywhere in the world at the pope’s behest. Unlike other religious orders, they wanted to recite the canonical Hours privately, and not in choir, so they would be free to perform charity.

Many religious communities had fallen into disrepute, and some prelates wanted to reduce their number. But the small band had won praise in many corners of Europe, and on Sept. 27, Paul III formally established the new order, the Society of Jesus, soon to be known as the Jesuits.

Within eight years they would be operating schools.


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