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Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 -1556) in the year 1533 in Rome, with the original purpose of defending the Catholic Faith at the time of the Reformation. Coming from a military background, Ignatius gave the Society he founded the discipline that made its members distinguish themselves by their obedience to the Pope, as well as to the Religious Superior. The Society followed the canons that regulated Religious life, but launched itself more for the Missions under the guidance of the Popes, thus seeking exemption from such traditional requirements as choir and strict community life. Early in its history, the Society was led into the Educational Apostolate, establishing Schools and Universities in Europe as well as in the Missions. The discipline and erudition, which made the Society of Jesus a dominant force in the Counter-Reformation, also brought them into conflict with civil authorities throughout Europe, and they were expelled from several States. In 1773 Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Order, and it was not reinstated until 1814. Today Jesuits are active in most countries and are noted for their schools and universities including the Gregorian University in Rome.

The Society of Jesus is led by a Superior General, currently Rev Fr Adolfo Nicolás. The headquarters of the Society, its General Curia, is in Rome.

According to Fr S G Perera, a well known Jesuit Historian in the Church of Sri Lanka, the first arrival of the Jesuits in the country, then known as Ceylon, goes back to the time of St Francis Xavier. First as a part of the Indian Province, in Mannar in 1561, which lasted until 1608, and subsequently in Colombo in 1602

The second Jesuit era begins when in 1893 Pope Leo XIII founded the Papal Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka, entrusting its direction and administration to the Society of Jesus and also with the contemporaneous founding of the two dioceses of Trincomalee-Batticaloa and Galle.

The responsibility of administering the two newly founded dioceses was entrusted to the Society of Jesus and the two dioceses were manned by Jesuits from two independent European Provinces (Champagne-France and Belgian respectively). However, these two provinces, with the responsibility for the newly founded dioceses, opted for the same names to identify themselves, such as, the Jesuits of the Trincomalee-Batticaloa mission and the Jesuits of the Galle mission. These two mission provinces, though later exchanged their responsibility with two other provinces (New Orleans-USA and Naples-Italy respectively) of the Society of Jesus, were amalgamated into a Vice Province in 1962 which eventually became the Jesuit Province of Sri Lanka.