International News Snippets November 2011

The following news snippets are relayed to you from the SJ Digital News Service 'Jesuits Around the World', Vol. XV, No. 21 | 21 November 2011

  • AUSTRALIA: Interview with Peter Steele

Australian Jesuit poet and scholar Father Peter Steele has spoken about his life's journey and his battle with cancer in a poignant interview on ABC Radio National's Encounter Program.  

In the interview with journalist Margaret Coffey, Father Steele talked about how he came to terms with his illness, and the very near prospect of death. "I've written about all sorts of things in my various writings, one of the great subjects has always been mortality.  Our mortality, as I firmly believe, is a condition . . . let's call it a room, which precedes and leads into a capacious and entirely blessed and secure immortality, one of whose names is heaven.  I believe in that very, very strongly. And I probably believe that more strongly than almost anything else," said Fr Steele. 

In the interview, he also talked about his first encounter with the Jesuits, how he fell in love with the teachings of Ignatius as a scholastic, and how it has shaped his life as a Jesuit.  He said the one thing that priesthood has in common with poetry is that each of them, in an essential way, has to do with celebration.  

"The word Eucharist itself means saying thank you.  I think that God can never be thanked enough for being God and for sending his Son Jesus to be both God and a human being."  The full interview can be heard or read here:

  • SPAIN: "Bravo! 2011" Award to New Technologies

The Spanish Episcopal Conference has conferred the Bravo 2011! Award, in the category of the new technology, to  The website was devised by the Jesuits of Valladolid with the collaboration of a group of lay people.  It offers prayer through the Internet.  

The diocese of Valladolid proposed this website for the award: it stressed particularly the creative means of evangelization it has developed.  With these awards, the Episcopal Conference "wants to recognize, from the Church's point of view, the valuable contribution of communications professionals who do outstanding work in promoting human dignity, human rights and evangelical values."  

There were eight other awards in different categories. was inaugurated on Ash Wednesday, 9th March 2011.  Since its inception, it has become increasingly popular, and there have been over one and a half million hits.  The site attracts an average 11,000 visitors per day: these have come from 138 countries, but the majority live in Spain, Mexico and Argentina.


  • VENEZUELA: The Indigenous' University

The lives of one hundred students of the Indigenous' University of Venezuela begin at dawn, when they wash in the Tauca river.  The day continues with one hour's private study, before the students set off for class.  A long walk through the Amazon forest takes them to their classrooms. The students learn the history, language and myths of the Indians.  In the afternoon, they study plant cultivation and the care of livestock.  

This university, located in the heart of the Amazon jungle, is the only university in the country geared to help young Indians defend their culture and ancient traditions.  It was founded, with the approval of the wise elders of the indigenous community, in the early nineties by Jesuit Brother José Maria Korta.  The Indians were the original inhabitants of Latin America.  After the continent was discovered in sixteenth century, they were decimated by European conquerors.  

Today, for example, indigenous people in Venezuela comprise only 2% of the total population.  For centuries, the Indians were forced to imbibe the culture of the newcomers.  To date, the university has survived, thanks to the contributions of generous benefactors.  Its teachers have contributed their services freely in their spare time. 

At last, the government will shortly recognize the university with an official decree.  This will allow the university to access public funds.  Hopefully, the university will then be able to extend its work to other regions of the country.


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