Adolfo Nicolás

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Nicolás and the second or maternal family name is Pachón.
The Very Reverend
Adolfo Nicolás
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Installed 19 January 2008
Term ended 3 October 2016
Predecessor Peter Hans Kolvenbach
Successor Arturo Sosa
Ordination 17 March 1967
Personal details
Birth name Adolfo Nicolás Pachón
Born (1936-04-29) 29 April 1936 (age 80)
Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Alma mater

Adolfo Nicolás Pachón SJ (born 29 April 1936), is a Spanish priest of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the thirtieth Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the largest religious order in the Roman Catholic Church.

He has announced that he has met with Pope Francis, the world's Jesuit provincials (regional leaders), and with other Jesuits in positions under him at the headquarters, and he and they have begun to plan for an eventual general congregation that will replace him once he resigns, as he indicated he would prefer to do, at age 80. Until the resignation of his predecessor, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, it was not the norm for a Jesuit Superior General to resign; they, like the great majority of the Popes up until Benedict XVI, generally served until death. However, the Jesuit constitutions include provision for a resignation.[1] The Society of Jesus on October 3, 2016 announced that Adolfo Nicolás' resignation was officially accepted and that a successor would be chosen the following week.[2][3]


Adolfo Nicolás was born in Villamuriel de Cerrato, Palencia, and entered the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits, in the novitiate of Aranjuez in 1953.[4] He studied at the University of Alcalá, there earning his licentiate in philosophy, until 1960, whence he traveled to Japan to familiarize himself with Japanese language and culture. Nicolás entered Sophia University in Tokyo, where he studied theology, in 1964, and was later ordained to the priesthood on 17 March 1967.

From 1968 to 1971, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from where he earned a doctorate in theology. Upon his return to Japan, Nicolás was made professor of systematic theology at his alma mater of Sophia University, teaching there for the next thirty years.

He was Director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University, in Quezon City, Philippines, from 1978 to 1984,[5] and later served as rector of the theologate in Tokyo from 1991 to 1993, when he was appointed Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Japan. Nicolás remained in this post until 1999, and then spent four years doing pastoral work among poor immigrants in Tokyo.

In 2004 he returned to the Philippines after he was named President of the Jesuit Conference of Provincials for Eastern Asia and Oceania.[5][6] As Moderator, he was at the service of the Jesuits of several countries, including Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Micronesia, Myanmar, and East Timor.

In addition to his native Spanish, Nicolás can speak Catalan, English, Italian, French, and Japanese.[7]

Superior General of the Society of Jesus[edit]

On the second ballot of the thirty-fifth General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Nicolás was elected as the Order’s thirtieth[8] Superior General on 19 January 2008, succeeding the Dutch Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach. His election was immediately relayed to Pope Benedict XVI, who confirmed him in the post. Many have marked the similarities between Nicolás and former Superior General Pedro Arrupe. Father Arrupe, like his eventual successor, was a Spanish missionary in Japan. Nicolás has described Arrupe, whom he had earlier had as Provincial Superior, as a "great missionary, a national hero, a man on fire".[9] He leads a congregation which currently numbers 18,500 members.[10]

On October 2, 2016, General Congregation 36 will convene in Rome, convoked by Superior General Adolfo Nicolás, who has announced his intention to resign at age 80.[11]

General Curia restructuring[edit]

In March 2011, Nicolás forwarded a communiqué of revisions to the General Curia restructuring the secretariats, including the creation of new positions and a commission.[12]

Beliefs and values[edit]

Missionary work[edit]

He once stated, "Asia has a lot yet to offer the Church, to the whole Church, but we haven't done it yet. Maybe we have not been courageous enough, or we haven't taken the risks we should".[13] In an article on Nicolás, Michael McVeigh said that Nicolás has also expressed his wariness of missionaries who are more concerned with teaching and imposing orthodoxy than in having a cultural experience with the local people, saying, "Those who enter into the lives of the people, they begin to question their own positions very radically. Because they see genuine humanity in the simple people, and yet they see that this genuine humanity is finding a depth of simplicity, of honesty, of goodness that does not come from our sources."[13]

In the homily of the Mass celebrated after his election as Superior General, Nicolás emphasized service, based on the scriptural reading for that day, the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and Benedict XVI's teaching on God is love. He stated: "The more we become as servants, the more pleased God is." Delving further on the scriptural passage and after relating an anecdote of experiences with the poor in Asia, he related poverty with having God as the only source of strength, pointing out that the Jesuit's strength is not in externals (power, media, etc.) nor in internal fortitude (research). "The poor only have God in whom to find strength. For us only God is our strength."

Nicolas also developed the following ideas: the message of the Jesuits is "a message of salvation" and the challenge of discerning the type of salvation that people today are waiting for.[14]

Obedience to Rome[edit]

After receiving a message from Pope Benedict asking the Society of Jesus to affirm its fidelity to the magisterium and the Holy See, the Congregation presided by Nicolás responded, "The Society of Jesus was born within the Church, we live in the Church, we were approved by the Church and we serve the Church. This is our vocation...[Unity with the pope] is the symbol of our union with Christ. It also is the guarantee that our mission will not be a 'small mission,' a project just of the Jesuits, but that our mission is the mission of the Church."[15]

Liberation theology[edit]

In a November 2008 interview with El Periodico, Nicolás described liberation theology as a "courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America."[16] These remarks are particularly controversial since some forms of liberation theology have been denounced by Pope John Paul II[17] and by Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[18] However, the Superior General also added, "As with any theology, liberation theology needs years to mature. It's a shame that it has not been given a vote of confidence and that soon its wings will be cut before it learns to fly. It needs more time."[16]


  1. ^[permanent dead link]
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Election press release: Biographical Notes" (in Italian). Jesuit Press and Information Office. 2008-01-19. Archived from the original on 2008-03-24. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 29 aprile 1936: nasce a Palencia, Spagna; 15 settembre 1953: Entra nel noviziato di Aranjuez della Provincia Toletana (Spagna); 1958–1960: Licenza in Filosofia (Alcalá, Madrid);1964–1968: Teologia a Tokyo, Giappone; 17 marzo 1967: ordinato Sacerdote a Tokyo, Giappone; 1968–1971: Doctor in teologia sacra alla Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma; 1971: Professore di Teologia Sistematica alla Sophia University di Tokyo, Giappone; 1978–1984: Direttore Istituto Pastorale di Manila (Filippine); 1991–1993: Rettore dello Scolasticato (Tokyo, Giappone); 1993–1999: Provinciale della Provincia di Giappone; 2004–2007: Moderatore della Conferenza Gesuita dell’Asia Orientale e Oceania. 
  5. ^ a b Fr. Adolfo Nicolas elected Superior General of the Jesuits
  6. ^ JCEAO – About JCEAO
  7. ^ Biografía, JESUITAS (Compañía de Jesús España).
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  9. ^ Whispers in the Loggia. The "Second Arrupe" on the First January 20, 2008
  10. ^, Spaniard Adolfo Nicolás elected new Superior General of the Jesuits
  11. ^ General Congregation 36
  12. ^ "Jesuit Superior General Announces Revision of Order's General Curia", VOX Bikol. March 22, 2011. Accessed March 23, 2011
  13. ^ a b McVeigh, Michael (2007-02-27). "Father Adolfo Nicolás". Province Express. Archived from the original on 22 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  14. ^ Fr. General's Homily, Gesu Church
  15. ^ Jesuits end meeting by approving decrees, confirming fidelity to pope, CNS March 7, 2008[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ a b Martin, James (2008-11-21). "Jesuit General: Liberation Theology "Courageous"". America: The National Catholic Weekly. 
  17. ^ "John Paul vs. Liberation Theology". TIME Magazine. 1979-02-12. 
  18. ^ Ratzinger, Joseph (1984-08-06). "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation"". Holy See. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Peter Hans Kolvenbach
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Succeeded by
Arturo Sosa