Jesuits from around the world meeting in Rome today accepted the resignation of their leader and will next week elect his successor.
Fr Adolfo Nicolás tendered his resignation as Superior General of the Society of Jesus at the age of 80. Now, 215 delegates have begun their 36th General Congregation (GC36) to determine who should be their next leader and agree on priorities for the future. Whoever is elected will be only the thirtieth Superior General since their founder, St Ignatius of Loyola was elected in 1540.
The delegates’ first step will be to absorb and discuss a document called the De Statu Societatis, which sums up the state of the Society in the world. Next, the assembly will have one to one conversations known as murmuratio that will examine current needs and identify candidates for Superior General. Campaigning for any candidate is strictly forbidden. Personal ambition is frowned upon. The election is expected before the end of next week.
Yesterday, at GC36’s opening Mass at the Jesuit Mother Church, the Gesù, the Master of the Dominicans, Fr Bruno Cadoré, told congregation members and other Jesuits based in Rome that they should combine audacity and humility in their mission.
Referring to the day’s gospel reading in which the Apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, Fr Cadoré, told delegates they needed the same mindset at their meeting because “it is daring to aim for the improbable”.
He continued: “An assembly such as yours ... will without doubt move between the duty of constantly calling the society to dare the audacity of the ‘improbable’ and the evangelical willingness to do it with the humility of those who know that, in this service where the human engages all his energy, ‘everything depends on God’.”
The relationship between the Dominicans and Jesuits goes back to the conversion of St Ignatius, who would ask himself, “If St Dominic did such and such, why can I not?”
There is a tradition that, when the Superior General of the Jesuits dies, the Master of the Dominican Order is invited to celebrate the Eucharist. Superior generals are usually elected for life, but in 2006 the 29th general, Fr Hans Kolvenbach, told members that he intended to step down two years later when he reached 80. His successor has followed in his footsteps.
PICTURE - The Society of Jesus celebrate a thanksgiving mass at Rome's Church of Jesus after the selection of Adolfo Nicolás as their Superior General in January, 2008. Nicolás officially tendered his resignation this morning (Monday 3 October)