ROME, FEB. 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Jesuits, announced his intention to resign from his office, adding that he will convoke a general congregation to elect his successor.
In a letter he sent to the members of the Society of Jesus, Father Kolvenbach officially convoked the order’s 35th General Congregation. It will open Jan. 5, 2008, in the General Curia of Rome.
The letter, published today, said: “During the Congregation of Procurators of 2003 and during the recent meeting of Major Superiors of the Society of Jesus, it became increasingly clear that the Society has reached a situation foreseen by Saint Ignatius in the Constitutions (680): in which there are ‘very difficult things touching upon the whole body of the Society,’ ‘for more service to God our Lord.’ It is a situation that requires a General Congregation.”
Thus, the general congregation is convoked with the dual objective of electing a new superior general and addressing other important matters for the Society of Jesus.
According to the Jesuit Constitutions, the office of superior general is for life. A new superior general is elected only in the case of death, grave illness or if, in conscience, the general thinks he must resign.
80 in ’08
The first case of resignation was that of Father Pedro Arrupe, who on Sept. 3, 1983, unable to exercise his office due to grave illness, presented his resignation to the general congregation and the latter accepted it.
His successor was Father Kolvenbach, elected Sept. 13, 1983. He will turn 80 in 2008.
As of Jan. 1, 2005, the Jesuits numbered 19,850, including 13,966 priests.
In the letter, Father Kolvenbach explains that he made his decision “after having obtained the consent of His Holiness Benedict XVI” and after hearing the opinions of the Society’s representatives.