Superior General of the Society of Jesus
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Christogram of the Jesuits
The Superior General of the Society of Jesus is the official title of the leader of the Society of Jesus – the Roman Catholic religious order which is also known as the Jesuits. He is generally addressed as Father General. The position sometimes carries the nickname of the Black Pope, because of his responsibility for the largest Catholic, male religious order and is contrasted to the white garb of the pope. The thirty-first and current Superior General is the Reverend Father Arturo Sosa, elected by the 36th General Congregation on October 14, 2016.
The formal title in Latin is Praepositus Generalis, which may fairly be rendered as "superior general" or even, "president general". The term is not of military origin (despite popular misconceptions and Ignatius of Loyola's own military background) but is derived from "general", as opposed to "particular". This usage is consistent with other Catholic religious orders, like the Dominicans' "master general", Franciscans' "minister general", Carthusians' "prior general", and with civil posts such as Postmaster General and Attorney General. The Jesuits are organized into provinces, each with a provincial superior, (usually referred to as the "Provincial Father" or just "Provincial"), with the head of the order being the "general superior", for the whole organization. As a major superior, the Superior General is styled "Very Reverend".
"Black Pope" is a designation given to the Superior General. The name follows from his leadership of the largest Catholic, male religious order and from the color of the plain black cassock worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General. This may have originated from a past concern (most prominent around the 16th and 17th centuries) amongst Protestant European countries concerning the relative power of the Jesuits within the Roman Catholic Church, and partly because the Superior General, like the Pope, is elected for life.
The Superior General is invested with governing power over all the members of the Society, but customarily leads through Provincial superiors under him. Such power follows from the religious vows that bind members to community life, as in other religious orders.
Superiors General are elected by the General Congregation of the Society, summoned upon the resignation or death of an incumbent. Superiors General are elected for life and up to recently, as with the Popes, have served life terms. The exceptions being Father Pedro Arrupe (resigned for reasons of failing health) and both his successors, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach and Father Adolfo Nicolás. On October 2, 2016, General Congregation 36 convened in Rome, convoked by Superior General Nicolás, and it elected Father Arturo Sosa as the thirty-first Superior General.
List of Superiors General
Until the 21st century, it was customary for Superior Generals to rule for life. Where they left office before death, the date of death is listed below the date they left office. (Pedro Arrupe resigned in 1983 after a paralyzing stroke.)
|#||Superior General||Image||Took office||Left office
|Birthplace[a]||Length of term (in days)|
|1||St. Ignatius of Loyola||April 19, 1541||July 31, 1556||Azpeitia, Spain||5,582|
|2||Diego Laynez||July 2, 1558||January 19, 1565||Almazán, Spain||2,393|
|3||St. Francis Borgia||July 2, 1565||October 1, 1572||Gandia, Spain||2,648|
|4||Everard Mercurian||April 23, 1573||August 1, 1580||La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium||2,657|
|5||Claudio Acquaviva||February 19, 1581||January 31, 1615||Atri, Italy||12,399|
|6||Mutio Vitelleschi||November 15, 1615||February 9, 1645||Rome, Italy||10,679|
|7||Vincenzo Carafa||January 7, 1646||June 8, 1649||Naples, Italy||1,248|
|8||Francesco Piccolomini||December 21, 1649||June 17, 1651||Siena, Italy||543|
|9||Aloysius Gottifredi||January 21, 1652||March 12, 1652||Rome, Italy||51|
|10||Goschwin Nickel||March 17, 1652||July 31, 1664||Jülich, Germany||4,519|
|11||Giovanni Paolo Oliva||July 31, 1664||November 26, 1681||Genoa, Italy||6,327|
|12||Charles de Noyelle||July 5, 1682||December 12, 1686||Brussels, Belgium||1,621|
|13||Thyrsus González de Santalla||July 6, 1687||October 27, 1705||Arganza, Spain||6,688|
|14||Michelangelo Tamburini||January 31, 1706||February 28, 1730||Modena, Italy||8,521|
|15||Franz Retz||March 7, 1730||November 19, 1750||Prague, Bohemia||7,562|
|16||Ignacio Visconti||July 4, 1751||May 4, 1755||Milan, Italy||1,389|
|17||Aloysius Centurione||November 30, 1755||October 2, 1757||Genoa, Italy||672|
|18||Lorenzo Ricci||May 21, 1758||August 16, 1773
November 24, 1775
|--||Stanislaus Czerniewicz[b]||October 17, 1782||October 21, 1785||Kaunas, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth||1,100|
|--||Gabriel Lenkiewicz[b]||October 8, 1785||October 21, 1798||Polotsk, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth||4,761|
|--||Franciszek Kareu[c]||February 12, 1799||August 11, 1802||Orsha, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth||1,275|
|--||Gabriel Gruber[d]||October 22, 1802||April 6, 1805||Vienna, Austria||897|
|19||Tadeusz Brzozowski[e]||August 7, 1814||February 5, 1820||Königsberg, Prussia||2,008|
|20||Luigi Fortis||October 18, 1820||January 27, 1829||Verona, Italy||3,023|
|21||Jan Roothaan||July 9, 1829||May 8, 1853||Amsterdam, Netherlands||8,704|
|22||Peter Jan Beckx||August 2, 1853||March 4, 1887||Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium||12,267|
|23||Anton Anderledy||March 4, 1887||January 18, 1892||Berisal, Switzerland||1,781|
|24||Luis Martín||October 2, 1892||April 18, 1906||Melgar de Fernamental, Spain||4,945|
|25||Franz Xavier Wernz||September 8, 1906||August 20, 1914||Rottweil, Germany||2,903|
|26||Wlodimir Ledóchowski||February 11, 1915||December 13, 1942||Loosdorf, Austria||10,167|
|27||Jean-Baptiste Janssens||September 15, 1946||October 5, 1964||Mechelen, Belgium||6,595|
|28||Pedro Arrupe||May 22, 1965||September 3, 1983
February 5, 1991
|29||Peter Hans Kolvenbach||September 13, 1983||January 14, 2008
November 26, 2016
|30||Adolfo Nicolás||January 19, 2008||October 3, 2016
|Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain||3,169|
|31||Arturo Sosa||October 14, 2016||Incumbent||Caracas, Venezuela||849|
Leadership during suppression
In 1773, the Jesuits were suppressed by Pope Clement XIV, through the Papal brief Dominus ac Redemptor on July 21, 1773, executed August 16. The leaders of the order, in the nations where the Papal suppression order was not enforced, were known as temporary Vicars General.
The temporary Vicars General were:
- Stanislaus Czerniewicz (October 17, 1782 – October 21, 1785)
- Gabriel Lenkiewicz (October 8, 1785 – October 21, 1798)
- Franciszek Kareu (February 12, 1799 – March 7, 1801)
On March 7, 1801, Pope Pius VII issued the brief Catholicae fidei, giving approval to the existence of the Society in Russia and allowing the Society there to elect a Superior General for Russia. This was the first step to the Society's eventual restoration.
The Superiors General in Russia were:
- Franciszek Kareu (March 7, 1801 – August 11, 1802)
- Gabriel Gruber (October 22, 1802 – April 6, 1805)
- Tadeusz Brzozowski (September 14, 1805 – August 7, 1814)
- Lists the present-day name and nationality of the city in question.
- Vicar General
- Vicar General until March 7, 1801, Superior General for Russia thereafter.
- Superior General for Russia only.
- Superior General for Russia only from September 14, 1805 to August 7, 1814.