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The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu, S.J., SJ or SI) is a Christian male religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits and are also known colloquially as "God's Marines", the latter being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and the members' willingness to accept orders anywhere in the world and to live in extreme conditions where required. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations on six continents. Jesuits work in education (founding schools, colleges, universities and seminaries), intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes and promote social justice and ecumenical dialogue.

Ignatius founded the society after being wounded in battle and experiencing a religious conversion. He composed the Spiritual Exercises to help others follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. In 1534, Ignatius and six other young men, including St. Francis Xavier and Bl. Pierre Favre, gathered and professed vows of poverty, chastity, and later obedience, including a special vow of obedience to the Pope. Rule 13 of Ignatius' Rules for Thinking with the Church said: "That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity [...], if [the Church] shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. Ignatius' plan of the order's organization was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 by the bull containing the Formula of the Institute. The opening lines of this founding document would declare that the Society of Jesus was founded to "strive especially for the propagation and defense of the faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine. The Society participated in the Counter-Reformation and later in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church. The society's founding principles are contained in the document Formula of the Institute, written by Ignatius of Loyola.

The Society of Jesus is consecrated under the patronage of Madonna Della Strada, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is led by a Superior General, currently Rev. Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, S.J.

The headquarters of the society, its General Curia, is in Rome. The historic curia of St Ignatius is now part of the Collegio del Gesù attached to the Church of the Gesù, the Jesuit Mother Church.

The Jesuits today form the largest single religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church, although they are surpassed by the Franciscan family of first orders Order of Friars Minor (OFM), OFM Capuchins, and Conventuals. As of 1 January 2007, Jesuits numbered 19,216: 13,491 clerks regular (priests), 3,049 scholastics (students to become priests), 1,810 brothers (not priests) and 866 novices. Members serve in 112 nations on six continents with the largest number in India and the USA. Their average age was 57.3 years: 63.4 years for priests, 29.9 years for scholastics. and 65.5 years for brothers. The Society is divided into 91 Provinces with 12 dependent Regions: three in Africa, four in the Americas and five in Asia and Oceania. Altogether, they constitute 10 administrative units (assistancies).


On 15 August 1534, Ignatius of Loyola (born Íñigo López de Loyola), a Spaniard of Basque origin, and six other students at the University of Paris—Francisco Xavier from Navarre (modern Spain), Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Laínez, Nicolás Bobadilla from Spain, Peter Faber from Savoy, and Simão Rodrigues from Portugal—met in Montmartre outside Paris, in a crypt beneath the church of Saint Denis, now Saint Pierre de Montmartre.

They called themselves the Company of Jesus, and also Amigos en El Señor or "Friends in the Lord", because they felt "they were placed together by Christ". The name had echoes of the military (as in an infantry "company"), as well as of discipleship (the "companions" of Jesus). The word "company" comes ultimately from Latin, cum + pane = "with bread", or a group that shares meals.

In 1537, they traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III gave them a commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. These initial steps led to the founding of what would be called the Society of Jesus later in 1540. The term societas in Latin is derived from socius, a partner or comrade.

Interesting Facts

Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France et du jeune Canada

Jesuits in China

  • Giulio Aleni 艾儒略 (1582-1647)
  • Jean Joseph Marie Amiot (1718-1793) Jesuit missionary and author at the court of the Chinese emperor.
  • Antonio de Andrade (1580-1634) Jesuit missionary in India and Tibet.
  • Giovanni Aroccia (1566-1623) Portuguese Jesuit missionary who entered interior China in the late Ming Dynasty.
  • Henri Bernard-Maitre (1889-1975) Missionary and historian of Jesuit missions in China.
  • Joachim Bouvet 白晉 (1656-1973) Jesuit mathematician and missionary in China.
  • Lodovico Buglio 利類思 (1606-1682)
  • Melchior Miguel Carneiro Leitao (1519-1583) Portuguese Jesuit missionary and bishop of China and Japan.
  • Giuseppe Castiglione 郎世寧 (1683-1766) Jesuit missionary and painter at the imperial court of China.
  • Lazzaro Cattaneo 郭居静 (1560-1640)
  • Philippe Couplet (1623-1693)
  • Seraphin Couvreur (1835-1919) Jesuit missionary in China, translator of Chinese classics, and compiler of several dictionaries.
  • Joseph Dehergne (1903-1990) Historian of Jesuit missions in China.
  • Hippolytus Desideri (1684-1733) Jesuit scholar of Tibetan religion and culture.
  • Emmanuel Diaz (1574-1659) Portuguese Jesuit missionary to China in the late Ming period.
  • Albert Dorville (1621-1662) Jesuit missionary in China and Tibet.
  • Pasquale d' Elia (1890-1963) Jesuit missionary in China, and missiologist.
  • Jean-Francois Foucquet (1665-1741)
  • Xaver-Ehrenbert Fridelli (1606-1682)
  • Jean-Francois Gerbillon 張誠 (1654-1707)
  • Bento de Goes (1562-1607) First Jesuit missionary to cross Asia en route to China.
  • Philippus Maria Grimaldi (1639-1712) Italian Jesuit missionary who worked in the Qing government during the reign of Emperor Kangxi.
  • Johannes Gruber (1623-1680) Jesuit explorer of land routes to China.
  • Huang Mingsha (1570-1606) Chinese Jesuit lay brother and martyr.
  • Prospero Intorcetta (1625-1696)
  • Pierre Jartoux (1669-1720) Jesuit mathematician and cartographer in China.
  • Godefroid Xavier de Laimleckhoven (1707-1785) Jesuit missionary who entered the interior of China during the reign of Emperor Qian Lung (Qing Dynasty).
  • Louis Le Comte (1655-1728)
  • Li Wenyu (1840-1911) Chinese Jesuit and well-known writer.
  • Li Zhizao (1565-1630) Only high-ranking Chinese intellectual baptized by Matteo Ricci, and one of the "three pillars" of the early Catholic Church in China.
  • Nicolò Longobardi 龍華民 (1559-1654) Longest-serving Jesuit missionary in China during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties.
  • Ma Xiangbo (1840-1939) Well-known Chinese Catholic patriot.
  • Joseph Marie Anne de Moyriac de Mailla (1669-1748) Jesuit missionary, cartographer, and historian in China.
  • Martino Martini (1614-1661) Jesuit missionary, geographer, and historian of China.
  • Francisco Javier Montalban (1895-1945) Jesuit seminary professor in Shanghai and mission historian.
  • Carneiro Leitao Melchior Nunes (1516-1583) First rector of the Jesuit College at Evora, Portugal, and first bishop delegate of the holy see to exercise his Episcopal ministry in the Far East (from 1568 to 1581), becoming one of the main pioneers of the Catholic Church in Macau.
  • Didace de Pantoja (1571-1618) Spanish Jesuit missionary to China during the late Ming period.
  • Thomas Pereira 徐日昇 (1645-1708) Portuguese Jesuit missionary serving the Qing government of Emperor Kangxi.
  • Jean-Baptiste Regis 雷孝思 (1663-1738) Jesuit missionary and cartographer in China.
  • Matteo Ricci 利瑪竇 (1552-1610) Founder of modern Roman Catholic missions in China and Western sinologist.
  • João da Rocha (1565-1623)
  • Francois de Rougemont (1624-1676)
  • Michele Ruggieri 羅明堅 (1543-1607) Jesuit pioneer missionary in China.
  • Johann Adam Schall von Bell 湯若望 (1592-1666) Jesuit missionary and astronomer in China.
  • Johann Terrenz (1576-1630) First Jesuit missionary to help the Ming court revise the Chinese calendar.
  • Nicolas Trigault 金尼閣 (1577-1628) Jesuit missionary in China, the first European to see the Nestorian monument of 781.
  • Sabbatino de Ursis 熊三拔 (1575-1620) Italian Jesuit missionary to China in the late Ming dynasty.
  • Alphonsus Vagnoni (1566-1640) First Italian Jesuit missionary in Shanxi, China.
  • Alessandro Valignano (1539-1606) Organizer of the Jesuit mission in Japan and China, patron of Matteo Ricci.
  • Ferdinand Verbiest 南懷仁 (1623-1688) Jesuit missionary, astronomer, and diplomat at the court of China.
  • Claude Visdelou (1656-1737) Jesuit missionary in China and one of the royal mathematicians sent by Louis XIV to the court of China.
  • Georges Frederic Leon Wieger (1856-1933) Physician, sinologue, and Jesuit missionary in China.
  • Wu Yushan (1632-1718) First Chinese priest of the Society of Jesus in Jiangnan, China, and well-known landscape artist in the Qing dynasty.
  • Xu Candida (1607-1680) Foremost Chinese Christian laywoman of her time.
  • Xu Guangqi (1562-1633) Grand minister of the Ming dynasty and significant member of the Catholic Church who contributed much to the propagation of Christianity during the late Ming period.
  • Polycarpe de Souza (1697-1757) First bishop in Beijing following the banning of Christianity by the Qing emperor Yongzheng.



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