John Thorpe (1726-1792), an English Jesuit living in Rome from 1756, became an eyewitness of many sad events linked to the local expulsions which his confreres experienced in various countries prior to the universal suppression of the Society in 1773. His copious correspondence, including this letter of 15 Dec 1759, is conserved in the archive of the British Province in London; his correspondence is only partly published (“Promising Hope”: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus. Edited by Thomas M. McCoog. Rome, Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003). The letter given here throws light on the first episode in this gradual destruction of the Order, namely, the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal which occurred that year. As well as details regarding the conditions of the sea journey of those expelled, who had been sent to the Papal States (in doing so Pombal, Portugal’s chief minister, said he wanted to show the other kings how one negotiated with Rome!) other circumstances of their exile emerge, such as the pressure exerted on them to make them leave the Society, difficulties in feeding and lodging the exiles in Italy, etc.
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Lourenco Kaulen, Relation of certain things which happened to the fathers of the Society of Jesus in the kingdom of Portugal, in the prisons there, in its places of exile and jails, which lasted 18 years, from 1759 until 1777, during the reign of King Jose I and under prime minister Sebastiao Jose Carvalho de Carvalho e Melo, marquis of Pombal, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Manuscrito 7997, f.3.
The reason for this relation is not to complain of the instruments which God has used to test the patience of many men great in virtue, in science and in nobility. Neither is it to denigrate someone who has committed certain excesses, which are reported. Neither is it to canonize those whose exceptional virtues are noted. But merely so that coming generations might know what happened in those prisons, where envy, hatred, wickedness and tyrannical revenge had buried those men so that they would never leave that tomb. But God, who brings to death and leads to life, tests and does not condemn his servants, did not want that innocence would be totally oppressed; He led the fathers back from darkness to light, from prison to freedom, and from a state of near death to life, without doubt wanting the world to know that which hell intended to hide. In this way what onereads in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10, is confirmed: That which is hidden will be revealed; and that which is kept secret will be made known.
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