Vol. XX, No. 14 July 20, 2016
Conversations with Father General
Expectations from General Congregation 36
On 2nd October 2016, the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will open in Rome. Father General Adolfo Nicolás has indicated that he will submit, to the General Congregation, a request to stepdown from leadership. The General Congregation is free to accept his request to stepdown, or not to accept it. In this short conversation with Fr Patrick Mulemi, Father General speaks about expectations from General Congregation 36.
Of course, the agenda is that of the Holy Spirit and the electors, but what, in general, are you hoping for from the next General Congregation?
R. I would like to expect what is proper and realistic of a General Congregation. After the Second Vatican Council, it was necessary to reformulate many aspects and dimensions of Religious life and that happened in the Congregations 31 to 35. The Congregations took up this task and, with more or less success, they changed the methodology to incorporate this aspect of the new times in the Church.
Now we can go back to the proper tasks of a Congregation of this nature and of such high numbers. I think that a Congregation is not meant, ordinarily, to produce long documents. It is rather a representation of the whole Society of Jesus to discern on how to ameliorate our Religious life and how to improve our service to the Church and the Gospel in "the service of souls".
This observation contains my expectations. Thus, I hope that the fruits of the Congregation will be a better religious life in the spirit of the Gospel and a new imagination in approaching our mission.
Do you feel that this Congregation will be different from the last one, at which you were elected?
R. Yes, I think it will be very different. Times have changed and there is a new awareness in the Society that we need daring, imagination and courage in facing our mission as part of the bigger Mission of God vis-à-vis our world. We have also a new formula, which has given us a new way of conceiving the General Congregation. We come together only in October of 2016, but the Congregation already begun in September of 2015 with the meetings of the Preparatory Committee (September) and the Coordinating Committee (December). This is a big change and it will certainly affect the Congregation.
What happens if the Congregation votes against your request to resign?
R. That would be a real surprise. I think the whole Society is conscious that we need agility and daring in facing the future and that it is not good for the Society to go through the uncertainties that accompany the last two (or more) years of service of every general superior. In concrete terms, the General Congregation is free to accept my request of resignation or not to accept it. In case it does not accept my request, the Congregation will have to elect a Vicar to provide for the coming years in which my abilities will certainly be greatly diminished, a process that I am already beginning to feel at present.
Will Pope Francis address the GC36?
R. We hope so. But the Pope is free, and I can assure you that he will use this freedom. We all hope that he will address the Congregation and present to it his feelings and concerns.
The next issue of the DIGITAL SERVICE will be published in September.