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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Interfaith Prayer Vigil in Honor of the Victims and Survivors of the Japan Earthquake

Georgetown University
March 15, 2011

Thank you all for being here as we come together to focus our thoughts and prayers on the recent devastation in Japan. For many of us here today, this gathering is far too reminiscent of a similar moment last winter, when a disaster of equal magnitude struck Haiti. Our first thoughts and our deepest sympathies go to those who have lost family and friends, and for those who await news of their safety. 

The ties between the Jesuit tradition that animates this University and the people of Japan have been strong from the very beginning. One of the earliest Jesuits, Francis Xavier, started his missionary work in Japan… 

Father Pedro Arrupe, often described as the second founder of the order, was the novice master in the Jesuit house outside of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb dropped, and among the first to minister to the sick and the dying within the city. Our current superior general, Father Adolfo Nicolas, served as the Provincial of the Japanese Province prior to his election, and has focused on the deep value of interreligious dialogue and cultural exchange. The tradition of compassion, mutual understanding and shared experience embodied by these leaders is the same spirit that we need to embrace today as we do our part to help those in need in Japan. 

There is an idea that is at work here – that has been present here since the days of our founding. It is an idea that first emerged in the second century with the Stoics. 

We understand ourselves always as being very grounded in a specific place – originally within the center of a family – parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters – and we move out beyond our immediate family into our neighborhood, our community, in ever increasing, ever widening concentric circles, that includes – ultimately – all of humankind. And the goal is to bring the outer circles ever closer to the inner circles – recognizing that geography is not relevant in establishing moral responsibility. 

I would like to share a short prayer written by Fr. Arrupe that speaks to this idea: 

Lord, meditating on our way of proceeding, I have discovered that the ideal of our way of acting is your way of acting. 

Give me that sensus Christi that I may feel with your feelings, with the sentiments of your heart are love for your Father and love for all men and women

Teach me how to be compassionate to the suffering.
Teach us your way so that it becomes our way today.
We now will take several moments of silence to remember and pray for the victims, survivors, and responders, each in our own way...

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