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The Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, was founded in 1534 by a group of University of Paris graduate students led by Inigo Lopez de Loyola, known more commonly by the Latin version of his name, Ignatius Loyola. The Society's organization was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III.

The Society of Jesus is very active in missionary work and in education, operating over 50 high schools and colleges in the United States alone.

Their motto is "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam," a Latin phrase, often abbreviated AMDG, which means "for the greater glory of God."

Among many distinguished early Jesuits was Francis Xavier.

Jesuit missions in Latin America were very controversial in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal, where they were seen as interfering with the proper colonial enterprises of the royal governments.

The Jesuits were suppressed in all countries (other than Russia, where the Russian Orthodox government refused to recognize papal authority) in the 18th century, then revived in the 19th century.

The Jesuits have frequently been described by Catholic and Protestant enemies as engaged in various conspiracies.