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Member of the Roman Catholic order of religious men called the Society of Jesus. First organized by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 at the University of Paris, the order was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. It discontinued many practices of medieval religious life, such as obligatory penances and fasts and a common uniform, and instead focused on military-style mobility and adaptability. Its organization was characterized by centralized authority, probation lasting many years before final vows, and special obedience to the pope. The Jesuits served as a preaching, teaching, and missionary society, actively promoting the Counter-Reformation, and by the time of Ignatius's death in 1556 their efforts were already worldwide. The success of their enterprise and their championship of the pope earned them much hostility from both religious and political foes. Under pressure from France, Spain, and Portugal, Pope Clement XIV abolished the order in 1773, but it was restored by Pius VII in 1814. The Jesuits have since become the largest male religious order.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Jesuit, visit Britannica.com.