Who are the Jesuits?

The Jesuits are members of a Roman Catholic religious order called the Society of Jesus. The group was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556). Born into nobility as Iñigo de Oñaz y Loyola, the Spaniard became a knight in 1517. In that capacity he fought against the French in their siege 1521 of Pamplona, northeast of Madrid. But he was seriously wounded in the battle and retreated to a commune in northeast Spain from 1522 to 1523. There Ignatius heard a religious calling and subsequently undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1523 to 1524). Committed to a religious life, he embarked on a program of disciplined writing and study in Spain and in Paris, France. Even before he was ordained in 1537, Ignatius had gained followers—the Spanish missionary Francis Xavier (1506–1552) among them. With his companions Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus in 1539; the religious order was approved by Pope Paul III (1468–1549) the following year. Jesuits are known for leading structured lives and for their self-discipline, commitment to the pope, and missionary work. They have a profound belief in education, and as such have long been leaders in learning and in the sciences. The order was suppressed in 1773 but restored in 1814.


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