Superior General of the Society of Jesus

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Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Praepositus Generalis
Seal of the Society of Jesus
Arturo Sosa in January 2017.jpg
Arturo Sosa

since 14 October 2016
Formation19 April 1541
First holderIgnatius of Loyola

The superior general of the Society of Jesus is the leader of the Society of Jesus, the 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, because of his responsibility for the largest male religious order, in contrast with the white garb of the pope. The thirty-first and current superior general is Fr Arturo Sosa, elected by the 36th General Congregation on 14 October 2016.[1]


Ignatius of Loyola, 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 like that of military usage (and Ignatius of Loyola had a military background) which 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 "Father Provincial" 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[edit]

"Black Pope" is an unofficial designation given to the position of Superior General of the Order of the Jesuits.[2] The name follows from his leadership of the largest Catholic, male religious order[3] and from the colour of the plain black cassock worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General.[4] This may have originated from a past concern (most prominent around the 16th and 17th centuries) among 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.

Pedro Arrupe


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 2 October 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]

Until the 21st century, it was customary for Superiors General 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.)

No. Superior General Portrait Took office Left office
Birthplace[a] Duration (in days)
1 Ignatius of Loyola Ignatius von Loyola.jpg April 19, 1541 July 31, 1556 Azpeitia, Spain 5,582
2 Diego Laynez Portret van de jezuïet Jacobus Laynez Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuïeten (serietitel) Effigies præpositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1910-4016.jpg July 2, 1558 January 19, 1565 Almazán, Spain 2,393
3 Francis Borgia Portret van de jezuïet Franciscus Borgia Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuïeten (serietitel) Effigies præpositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1913-2512.jpg July 2, 1565 October 1, 1572 Gandia, Spain 2,648
4 Everard Mercurian Portret van de jezuïet Everardus Mercurianus Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuïeten (serietitel) Effigies præpositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1907-3912.jpg April 23, 1573 August 1, 1580 La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium 2,657
5 Claudio Acquaviva Portret van de jezuïet Claudius Aquaviva Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuïeten (serietitel) Effigies præpositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1909-1354.jpg February 19, 1581 January 31, 1615 Atri, Italy 12,399
6 Mutio Vitelleschi Mutio Vitelleschi - Ordensgeneral der Jesuiten.jpg November 15, 1615 February 9, 1645 Rome, Italy 10,679
7 Vincenzo Carafa Ritratti de prepositi generali della Compagnia di Gesù-Carafa.jpg January 7, 1646 June 8, 1649 Naples, Italy 1,248
8 Francesco Piccolomini Ritratti de prepositi generali della Compagnia di Gesù-piccolomini.jpg December 21, 1649 June 17, 1651 Siena, Italy 543
9 Aloysius Gottifredi AlexanderGottifredi.png January 21, 1652 March 12, 1652 Rome, Italy 51
10 Goschwin Nickel Goswin Nickel.jpg March 17, 1652 July 31, 1664 Jülich, Germany 4,519
11 Giovanni Paolo Oliva Giovanni Paolo Oliva.png July 31, 1664 November 26, 1681 Genoa, Italy 6,327
12 Charles de Noyelle CharlesNoyelle.JPG July 5, 1682 December 12, 1686 Brussels, Belgium 1,621
13 Thyrsus González de Santalla Thyrsus González - Ordensgeneral der Jesuiten.jpg July 6, 1687 October 27, 1705 Arganza, Spain 6,688
14 Michelangelo Tamburini MTamburini.jpg January 31, 1706 February 28, 1730 Modena, Italy 8,521
15 Franz Retz FRetz.jpg March 7, 1730 November 19, 1750 Prague, Bohemia 7,562
16 Ignacio Visconti IVisconti.jpg July 4, 1751 May 4, 1755 Milan, Italy 1,389
17 Aloysius Centurione ACenturione.jpg November 30, 1755 October 2, 1757 Genoa, Italy 672
18 Lorenzo Ricci LRicci.jpg May 21, 1758 August 16, 1773
24 November 1775
21 July 1773
Florence, Italy 5,566
Stanislaus Czerniewicz[b] Stanislaus Czerniewicz, SJ.jpg 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] Franciszek Kareu (1731-1802).jpg February 12, 1799 August 11, 1802 Orsha, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1,275
Gabriel Gruber[d] Gabriel Gruber.jpg October 22, 1802 April 6, 1805 Vienna, Austria 897
19 Tadeusz Brzozowski[e] T.Brzozowski.jpg August 7, 1814 February 5, 1820 Königsberg, Prussia 2,008
20 Luigi Fortis Fortis.jpg October 18, 1820 January 27, 1829 Verona, Italy 3,023
21 Jan Roothaan Jean-Philippe Roothaan (1785-1853)b.jpg July 9, 1829 May 8, 1853 Amsterdam, Netherlands 8,704
22 Peter Jan Beckx Pierre-Jean Beckx (22ème Général des Jésuites).jpg August 2, 1853 March 4, 1887 Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium 12,267
23 Anton Anderledy Anderledy.jpg March 4, 1887 January 18, 1892 Berisal, Switzerland 1,781
24 Luis Martín Gemälde - Luis Martin SJ.jpg October 2, 1892 April 18, 1906 Melgar de Fernamental, Spain 4,945
25 Franz Xavier Wernz Gemälde - Franz Xaver Wernz SJ.jpg September 8, 1906 August 20, 1914 Rottweil, Germany 2,903
26 Wlodimir Ledóchowski Ledochowski.tif February 11, 1915 December 13, 1942 Loosdorf, Austria 10,167
27 Jean-Baptiste Janssens Jean-Baptiste Janssens (1889-1964).jpg September 15, 1946 October 5, 1964 Mechelen, Belgium 6,595
28 Pedro Arrupe Bilbao - Universidad de Deusto, Monumento a Pedro Arrupe.jpg May 22, 1965 September 3, 1983
5 February 1991
Bilbao, Spain 6,678
29 Peter Hans Kolvenbach KolvenbachCut.png September 13, 1983 January 14, 2008
26 November 2016
Druten, Netherlands 8,889
30 Adolfo Nicolás AdolfoNicolas.jpg January 19, 2008 October 3, 2016
20 May 2020
Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain 3,169
31 Arturo Sosa Arturo Sosa in January 2017.jpg October 14, 2016 Incumbent Caracas, Venezuela 2,241

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 21 July 1773, executed 16 August. 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 7 March 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 7 August 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 7 March 1801, Superior General for Russia thereafter.
  4. ^ Superior General for Russia only.
  5. ^ Superior General for Russia only from 14 September 1805 to 7 August 1814.


  1. ^ "Jesuits elect first Latin-American general". Crux. 2016-10-14. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  2. ^ commandprompt6 (1993). A view from Rome: on the eve of the modernist crisis. Fordham University Press. p. Back cover. ISBN 0823213595.
  3. ^ "Jesuit | religious order". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  4. ^ "Spaniard becomes Jesuits' new "black pope"". Reuters. 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2022-01-19.

External links[edit]