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Far Before Pope Francis, Jesuits Were Repressed By Some Roman Catholic Leaders

Pope Francis' status as the first Jesuit marks a momentous milestone in history. Relations between Jesuits and the Vatican have seen deep crises in the 479 years since the order was founded as humble missionaries.

Their growing power and monopoly over education generated suspicion and hostility around Europe.

In the 18th century, Jesuits were repressed by some of Europe's Catholic super-powers — Portugal, Spain, France. Emaciated, ragged Jesuit priests began roaming Europe, looking for refuge. Pressured by temporal powers, Pope Clement 14th jailed the Jesuits' leader, banned the order, closed their premises, and shared out their wine collection among his cardinals.

There were further tensions in the 20th century in Latin America, between the Polish anti-Soviet Pope John II and Jesuits in Latin America, who were seen as too doctrinally close to Marxists opposing military dictatorships there.

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Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.