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Father General

Adolfo Nicolás

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás,
Superior General of the Society of Jesus


Documents and talks



Documents and texts
of Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach


What is a Superior General?

Since Saint Ignatius was elected as Superior General of the Society of Jesus in 1540 and as he wrote the Constitutions of his Order, the Superior General has always been elected for life by a “General Congregation” of Jesuits, representatives of their provinces around the world.

The mission of the Superior General consists in guiding the Order, according to the Constitutions and Norms and the Guidelines of the General Congregations.

The two last Superior Generals, Frs. Pedro Arrupe (1965-1983) and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach (1983-2008) have asked and received permission from the pope to step down as Superior General.

Profile of Father Adolfo Nicolás

1936/ born on April 29 in Villamuriel de Cerrato (Palencia province), Spain, about four miles from the capital city Palencia. The third of four brothers (Antonio, Félix, Adolfo and José), his father Adolfo originated from the province of Burgos and his mother Modesta hailed from the small town Villalaco in the Palencia province.

1940/ His father, a military professional, was transferred to Barcelona. There Adolfo attended the Jaime Balmes Institute for his 1st year of high school [a seven year program at that time in Spain]. He did his second and third year at the Christian Brothers school in Barcelona. In 1949 he did his fourth year of high school at the Minor Seminary of Saint Joseph that the Jesuits of the Tarraconense Province ran in the town of Roquetas del Mar.

1950/ his father was transferred to Madrid; Adolfo completed his remaining three years of secondary education at the Jesuit's Areneros high school, graduating in 1953 with the highest distinction the school granted.

1953/ on September 15 he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Aranjuez in what was then the Province of Toledo. His philosophy studies were completed at Alcala de Henares, obtaining in Ph.L. in 1960. He then left for Japan for language studies.

1964-68/ he studied theology in Tokyo and was ordained priest there on March 17, 1967.

1968-71/ he completed his doctoral work at the Gregorian and wrote his doctoral dissertation, Theology of Progress.

1971/ he became a Professor of Systematic Theology at Sophia University in Tokyo.

1978-84/ Director of the Pastoral Institute in Manila , Philippines. This Institute was formed after the Vatican II to work on aggiornamento - the renewal of the Church - and has had wide influence in the theological renewal of all of Asia. Asian bishops and novice directors received their formation there.

1991-93/ Rector of the house of Jesuit students in Tokyo.

1993-99/ Provincial of Japan and in that capacity he attended GC34 in 1995, where on the first ballot he was elected secretary of the congregation.

2000-03/ he moved to a poor parish of immigrants in Tokyo. He was able to help thousands of Philippino and Asian immigrants, in the process gaining a first hand experience of their suffering. In this way his love for the poor and oppressed became his most important ministry.

2004-08/ he became Moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania. This means that his area of responsibility extended from China to the South Pacific and Australia. During these years, Fr. Kolvenbach made Vietnam into a new Province.

2007/ he served as a member of the Coetus Previus (preparatory commission) of GC35

2008/ on January 19 he was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

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