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Archival riches in Rome

Fr Brian Mac Cuarta SJ, Director of the Archives of the central government for the worldwide Society of Jesus, was interviewed recently by Lydia O’Kane of Vatican Radio. ARSI (Archivium Romanum Societatis Iesu) is housed in one of the buildings on the grounds of the Jesuit General Curia in Rome. It was founded in 1540, and it holds materials from the 1530s until the present day.

“It conserves the major correspondence from Father General to the different Jesuit groupings throughout the world and the correspondence arriving from the different Jesuit leaders back to Father General,” Fr Mac Cuarta explained. He stresses that they are very much a working archive, accessible by the scholarly public. There are around four hundred visiting scholars each year, requesting volumes from the two kilometers of shelving in the building. All records from before 1939 are available for academic research purposes.

“One very interesting collection,” says Fr Mac Cuarta, “is the collection of about five hundred printed Chinese books. These are books which Jesuits wrote inCjhina between, roughly, 1600 and the suppression of the Society in 1773. The rule was (and continues to be) that when Jesuits write a book they have to send a copy of the book to Father General. The men in China were very obedient to that rule, so now we have this magnificent collection.”

You can listen to the whole interview here.