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Superior General of the Society of Jesus

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Title: Superior General of the Society of Jesus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Adolfo Nicolás, Claudio Acquaviva, General Congregation, Pedro Arrupe, Society of Jesus
Collection: Lists of Christian Religious Leaders, Superiors General of the Society of Jesus
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Superior General of the Society of Jesus

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 current Superior General is the Reverend Father Adolfo Nicolás.


  • Titles 1
  • Black Pope 2
  • Powers 3
  • Succession 4
  • List of Superiors General 5
  • Leadership during suppression 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes and references 8
  • External links 9


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' "

Black Pope

"Black Pope" is a designation given to the Superior General.[1] 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 last two, Fr. Pedro Arrupe and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 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.


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 his successor, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach. Kolvenbach's resignation was announced in February 2006, which led to the convocation of the 35th General Congregation. That General Congregation elected the current Superior General of the Society, Father Adolfo Nicolás.[2]

List of Superiors General

# Superior General Image Took office Left office Birthplace[3] Length of term (in days)
1 Ignatius of Loyola April 19, 1541 July 31, 1556 Azpeitia, Spain 5,582
2 Laynez, DiegoDiego Laynez July 2, 1558 January 19, 1565 Almazán, Spain 2,393
3 Borgia, FrancisFrancis Borgia July 2, 1565 October 1, 1572 Gandia, Spain 2,648
4 Mercurian, EverardEverard Mercurian April 23, 1573 August 1, 1580 La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium 2,657
5 Acquaviva, ClaudioClaudio Acquaviva February 19, 1581 January 31, 1615 Atri, Italy 12,399
6 Vitelleschi, MutioMutio Vitelleschi November 15, 1615 February 9, 1645 Rome, Italy 10,679
7 Carafa, VincenzoVincenzo Carafa January 7, 1646 June 8, 1649 Naples, Italy 1,248
8 Piccolomini, FrancescoFrancesco Piccolomini December 21, 1649 June 17, 1651 Siena, Italy 543
9 Gottifredi, AloysiusAloysius Gottifredi January 21, 1652 March 12, 1652 Rome, Italy 51
10 Nickel, GoschwinGoschwin Nickel March 17, 1652 July 31, 1664 Jülich, Germany 4,519
11 Oliva, Giovanni PaoloGiovanni Paolo Oliva July 31, 1664 November 26, 1681 Genoa, Italy 6,327
12 Noyelle, Charles deCharles de Noyelle July 5, 1682 December 12, 1686 Brussels, Belgium 1,621
13 Santalla, Thyrsus González deThyrsus González de Santalla July 6, 1687 October 27, 1705 Arganza, Spain 6,688
14 Tamburini, MichelangeloMichelangelo Tamburini January 31, 1706 February 28, 1730 Modena, Italy 8,521
15 Retz, FranzFranz Retz March 7, 1730 November 19, 1750 Prague, Bohemia 7,562
16 Visconti, IgnacioIgnacio Visconti July 4, 1751 May 4, 1755 Milan, Italy 1,389
17 Centurione, AloysiusAloysius Centurione November 30, 1755 October 2, 1757 Genoa, Italy 672
18 Ricci, LorenzoLorenzo Ricci May 21, 1758 August 16, 1773 Florence, Italy 5,566
-- Czerniewicz, StanislausStanislaus Czerniewicz[4] October 17, 1782 October 21, 1785 Kaunas, Lithuania 1,100
-- Lenkiewicz, GabrielGabriel Lenkiewicz[4] October 8, 1785 October 21, 1798 Polotsk, Belarus 4,761
-- Kareu, FranciszekFranciszek Kareu[5] February 12, 1799 August 11, 1802 Orsha, Belarus 1,275
-- Gruber, GabrielGabriel Gruber[6] October 22, 1802 April 6, 1805 Vienna, Austria 897
19 Brzozowski, TadeuszTadeusz Brzozowski[7] August 7, 1814 February 5, 1820 Königsberg, Prussia 2,008
20 Fortis, LuigiLuigi Fortis October 18, 1820 January 27, 1829 Verona, Italy 3,023
21 Roothaan, JanJan Roothaan July 9, 1829 May 8, 1853 Amsterdam, Netherlands 8,704
22 Beckx, Peter JanPeter Jan Beckx August 2, 1853 March 4, 1887 Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium 12,267
23 Anderledy, AntonAnton Anderledy March 4, 1887 January 18, 1892 Berisal, Switzerland 1,781
24 Martín, LuisLuis Martín October 2, 1892 April 18, 1906 Melgar de Fernamental, Spain 4,945
25 Wernz, Franz XavierFranz Xavier Wernz September 8, 1906 August 20, 1914 Rottweil, Germany 2,903
26 Ledóchowski, WlodimirWlodimir Ledóchowski February 11, 1915 December 13, 1942 Loosdorf, Austria 10,167
27 Janssens, Jean-BaptisteJean-Baptiste Janssens September 15, 1946 October 5, 1964 Mechelen, Belgium 6,595
28 Arrupe, PedroPedro Arrupe May 22, 1965 September 3, 1983 Bilbao, Spain 6,678
29 Kolvenbach, Peter HansPeter Hans Kolvenbach September 13, 1983 January 14, 2008 Druten, Netherlands 8,889
30 Nicolás, AdolfoAdolfo Nicolás January 19, 2008 Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain 3,061

Leadership during suppression

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

Notes and references

  1. ^ David G. Schultenover (1993). A view from Rome: on the eve of the modernist crisis.  
  2. ^ News on the elections of the new Superior General
  3. ^ Lists the present-day name and nationality of the city in question.
  4. ^ a b Vicar General
  5. ^ Vicar General until March 7, 1801, Superior General for Russia thereafter.
  6. ^ Superior General for Russia only.
  7. ^ Superior General for Russia only from September 14, 1805 to August 7, 1814.

External links

  • The Goa Jesuit Province of the Society of Jesus
  • New York Jesuit Province History Page on the Suppression
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