Superior General of the Society of Jesus

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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, also known as the Jesuits. He is generally addressed as Father General. The position sometimes carries the nickname of the Black Pope, after his simple black priest's vestments, as 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.[1]


Saint Ignatius of Loyola served as the first Superior General

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" (as with many other Catholic religious orders, like the Dominicans' "master general", Franciscans' "minister general", Carthusians' "prior general", etc. and many civil posts, such as Postmaster General, Attorney General and Receiver 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 "The Very Reverend".

Black Pope[edit]

"Black Pope" is a designation given to the Superior General.[2] The name comes partly from the color of the plain black priest's cassock, worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General, partly 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 is elected for life (although the most recent, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, and Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, resigned with permission from the pope).


The Superior General is invested with extraordinary power over the members of the Society, higher than the power given to a bishop over the clergy and lay people of a diocese.[citation needed]


Superiors General are elected by the General Congregation of the Society, summoned upon the resignation, retirement or death of an incumbent. Superiors General are elected for life and almost all 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[edit]

# Superior General Image Took office Left office Birthplace[a] Length of term (in days)
1 Ignatius of Loyola Ignatius Loyola.jpg April 19, 1541 July 31, 1556 Azpeitia, Spain 5,582
2 Laynez, DiegoDiego Laynez Diego Laínez.jpg July 2, 1558 January 19, 1565 Almazán, Spain 2,393
3 Borgia, FrancisFrancis Borgia San Francisco de Borja.jpg July 2, 1565 October 1, 1572 Gandia, Spain 2,648
4 Mercurian, EverardEverard Mercurian Mercurian.jpg April 23, 1573 August 1, 1580 La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium 2,657
5 Acquaviva, ClaudioClaudio Acquaviva CAcquaviva.png February 19, 1581 January 31, 1615 Atri, Italy 12,399
6 Vitelleschi, MutioMutio Vitelleschi Mutio Vitelleschi - Ordensgeneral der Jesuiten.jpg November 15, 1615 February 9, 1645 Rome, Italy 10,679
7 Carafa, VincenzoVincenzo Carafa VCaraffa.jpg January 7, 1646 June 8, 1649 Naples, Italy 1,248
8 Piccolomini, FrancescoFrancesco Piccolomini Franziskus Piccolomini S.J..jpg December 21, 1649 June 17, 1651 Siena, Italy 543
9 Gottifredi, AloysiusAloysius Gottifredi AlexanderGottifredi.png January 21, 1652 March 12, 1652 Rome, Italy 51
10 Nickel, GoschwinGoschwin Nickel Goswin Nickel.jpg March 17, 1652 July 31, 1664 Jülich, Germany 4,519
11 Oliva, Giovanni PaoloGiovanni Paolo Oliva GPOliva.jpg July 31, 1664 November 26, 1681 Genoa, Italy 6,327
12 Noyelle, Charles deCharles de Noyelle CharlesNoyelle.JPG July 5, 1682 December 12, 1686 Brussels, Belgium 1,621
13 Santalla, Thyrsus González deThyrsus González de Santalla Thyrsus González - Ordensgeneral der Jesuiten.jpg July 6, 1687 October 27, 1705 Arganza, Spain 6,688
14 Tamburini, MichelangeloMichelangelo Tamburini MTamburini.jpg January 31, 1706 February 28, 1730 Modena, Italy 8,521
15 Retz, FranzFranz Retz FRetz.jpg March 7, 1730 November 19, 1750 Prague, Bohemia 7,562
16 Visconti, IgnacioIgnacio Visconti IVisconti.jpg July 4, 1751 May 4, 1755 Milan, Italy 1,389
17 Centurione, AloysiusAloysius Centurione ACenturione.jpg November 30, 1755 October 2, 1757 Genoa, Italy 672
18 Ricci, LorenzoLorenzo Ricci LRicci.jpg May 21, 1758 August 16, 1773 Florence, Italy 5,566
-- Czerniewicz, StanislausStanislaus Czerniewicz[b] Stanislaus Czerniewicz, SJ.jpg October 17, 1782 October 21, 1785 Kaunas, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1,100
-- Lenkiewicz, GabrielGabriel Lenkiewicz[b] October 8, 1785 October 21, 1798 Polotsk, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 4,761
-- Kareu, FranciszekFranciszek Kareu[c] Franciszek Kareu (1731-1802).jpg February 12, 1799 August 11, 1802 Orsha, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1,275
-- Gruber, GabrielGabriel Gruber[d] Gabriel Gruber.jpg October 22, 1802 April 6, 1805 Vienna, Austria 897
19 Brzozowski, TadeuszTadeusz Brzozowski[e] T.Brzozowski.jpg August 7, 1814 February 5, 1820 Königsberg, Prussia 2,008
20 Fortis, LuigiLuigi Fortis Fortis.jpg October 18, 1820 January 27, 1829 Verona, Italy 3,023
21 Roothaan, JanJan Roothaan Jean-Philippe Roothaan (1785-1853)b.jpg July 9, 1829 May 8, 1853 Amsterdam, Netherlands 8,704
22 Beckx, Peter JanPeter Jan Beckx Beckx.jpg August 2, 1853 March 4, 1887 Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium 12,267
23 Anderledy, AntonAnton Anderledy Anderledy.jpg March 4, 1887 January 18, 1892 Berisal, Switzerland 1,781
24 Martín, LuisLuis Martín Martin Garcia Luis SJ.jpg October 2, 1892 April 18, 1906 Melgar de Fernamental, Spain 4,945
25 Wernz, Franz XavierFranz Xavier Wernz Franz Xaver Wernz.jpg September 8, 1906 August 20, 1914 Rottweil, Germany 2,903
26 Ledóchowski, WlodimirWlodimir Ledóchowski Wlodimir Ledochowski.JPG February 11, 1915 December 13, 1942 Loosdorf, Austria 10,167
27 Janssens, Jean-BaptisteJean-Baptiste Janssens Jean-Baptiste Janssens (1889-1964).jpg September 15, 1946 October 5, 1964 Mechelen, Belgium 6,595
28 Arrupe, PedroPedro Arrupe Pedro Arrupe, S.J., memorial - University of San Francisco - San Francisco, CA - DSC02663.JPG May 22, 1965 September 3, 1983 Bilbao, Spain 6,678
29 Kolvenbach, Peter HansPeter Hans Kolvenbach Peterhanskolvenbach.jpg September 13, 1983 January 14, 2008 Druten, Netherlands 8,889
30 Nicolás, AdolfoAdolfo Nicolás January 19, 2008 October 3, 2016 Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain 3,169
31 Sosa, ArturoArturo Sosa October 14, 2016 Incumbent Caracas, Venezuela 164

Leadership during suppression[edit]

Saint Francis Borgia, depicted performing an exorcism, served as the third Superior General.

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:

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:

The order was restored on August 7, 1814, by Pope Pius VII, through the papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lists the present-day name and nationality of the city in question.
  2. ^ a b Vicar General
  3. ^ Vicar General until March 7, 1801, Superior General for Russia thereafter.
  4. ^ Superior General for Russia only.
  5. ^ Superior General for Russia only from September 14, 1805 to August 7, 1814.


  1. ^
  2. ^ David G. Schultenover (1993). A view from Rome: on the eve of the modernist crisis. Fordham University Press. p. Back cover. ISBN 0823213595. 

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