By Tracey Primrose
June 20, 2016 — The sounds of jackhammers and table saws punctuate
the workday at the Jesuit Curia, the worldwide headquarters of the Society of
Jesus, just steps from the Vatican. For more than two years, the sprawling
complex has been under renovation, and with the Jesuits’ General
Congregation 36 starting in early October, the pace has accelerated. The
project is scheduled to be completed by July 31 — St. Ignatius Day — which is
welcome news for the 51 Jesuits from around the world who live and work at the
There’s an old real estate maxim stressing the importance of location, location, location, and the Jesuit Curia is proof of that time-honored adage. From the roof of
the 110-room 1927 brick building, there’s a jaw-dropping view of the dome of
St. Peter’s. But there’s so much more that makes this place special, including
a chapel that houses the relics of 16 Jesuit saints; an archive that boasts a
priceless treasure trove of documents and artifacts; and a terraced garden
completely hidden from the Curia’s bustling entrance at #4 Borgo Santo Spirito.
Father Jim Grummer, SJ, who serves at the Curia, in the terraced garden. (Photo: Fr. Ed Fassett, SJ)
The expansive headquarters abuts the 90-room St. Peter
Canisius Residence (the Canisio), home to both the infirmary for the Jesuits of
Rome and the Jesuits working at Vatican Radio. Built in the 17thcentury, the Canisio was once a palace for an Italian noble family.
The entire complex is Zona
Extraterritoriale, which means that while it’s not part of Vatican City
proper, it does belong to the Holy See and is afforded the same protection as
property within the walls of the Vatican, similar to the way a foreign embassy
is viewed in a host country. So if there’s a fire, the Vatican Fire Department
rushes over; if there’s a break-in, the Vatican Police Department is
The view of the dome of St. Peter’s from the Jesuit Curia’s roof.
In the nearly 90 years that the Jesuits have called the
Curia home, there have been a small number of upgrades (air conditioning was
added in 2005), but nothing as dramatic as the two-year project that will
conclude next month. Far from cosmetic, the work includes required code updates,
such as asbestos removal, wiring and plumbing upgrades, new LED lighting, and
fire-retardant measures. The work affects the entire complex with special care given
to the Aula, or hall, where the 215
delegates for the Jesuits’ 36th General Congregation will convene beginning on
Updates to the Jesuit Curia will be completed in time for the Jesuits’ 36th General Congregation, which begins in October.
Many of those delegates will live right at the Jesuit Curia
and the Canisio, while the rest will be accommodated at Jesuit residences in
Rome. Importantly, all 215 will stay in Jesuit communities, meaning that at the
normally hospitable Jesuit Curia, there’s no room at the inn starting in late September.
Father Giuseppe Bellucci, SJ, is the minister of the Jesuit
Curia and is responsible for day-to-day operations — everything from food to
laundry to housekeeping to mechanical. Nearing 80, he shows no signs of slowing
down and is determined that the Curia “goes on every day in a perfect way.”
Fr. Bellucci, minister of the Jesuit Curia, in his office.
In the busy months of January and February, Fr. Bellucci
plays innkeeper to upward of 40 guests per night, often Jesuits and lay
collaborators in Rome for meetings. Previously the communications officer for the
Curia, Fr. Bellucci is used to living above the store, as it were.
For Father Jim Grummer, SJ, a Wisconsin Province Jesuit who
has served at the Curia for 11 years, living and working in the same building
was not the biggest adjustment. Getting used to the large mid-day meal followed
by extended downtime, siesta in
Spanish and riposo in Italian, was
something new. “It’s hard to get much business done because so many people are
away from their desks napping, walking or relaxing. Fairly quickly, I learned
not to fight it and, in fact, I really fell in love with the custom. I figured
that I might as well take a long walk or a short nap. It’s a great way to
detach that makes work in the late afternoon amazingly productive.”
The terraced garden at the Jesuit Curia. (Photo: Fr. Jim Martin, SJ)
A favorite walk for many of the Jesuits living at the Curia is
through the terraced garden, where fragrant roses line the path and wisteria
hangs overhead. It’s a great place to pray and a solitary oasis just outside
the bustle of St. Peter’s Square.
Says Fr. Bellucci, “We are so lucky to have this garden, in
the city of Rome — no one knows about this garden, and it is a paradise.”