Peter Hans Kolvenbach

Peter Hans Kolvenbach SJ (30 November 1928 – 26 November 2016), was the 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the largest male Catholic religious order.[1]

Early years

Kolvenbach in Goa, India, in 2006

Kolvenbach's childhood was spent in Druten, near Nijmegen in the Netherlands. There, he attended Canisius College for his secondary studies. At Canisius, he concentrated on modern languages. He entered the novitiate at Mariendaal on 7 September 1948. After completing philosophy studies at Berchmans Institute in Nijmegen, he was assigned to Lebanon, where he completed his doctorate in Sacred Theology at Université de Saint-Joseph in Beirut. On 29 June 1961, he was ordained a priest in the Armenian Catholic Church, an Eastern-rite church in communion with Rome.[2]

The next years of his life were spent in academia, specifically in linguistics. From 1964 to 1976, he taught general and Oriental linguistics in The Hague, Paris, and Beirut. Eventually, he was appointed Professor of General Linguistics and Armenian at Université de Saint-Joseph. He served in that capacity until 1981, when he became rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute.[2]

During his time on the Faculty of Saint-Joseph, he also served as provincial superior of the Jesuit vice-province of the Middle East.

Father General

On 7 August 1981, Father General Pedro Arrupe suffered a severe stroke in the plane on his way back to Rome. Although he survived for another ten years, he wanted to step down as Superior General. Though Arrupe proposed Vincent O'Keefe of Fordham University as interim successor, Pope John Paul II intervened and named Paolo Dezza his delegate to lead the order until the Jesuits selected a new superior.[3]

During the 33rd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, which was summoned to receive the formal resignation of Father Arrupe, Father Kolvenbach was elected as the order's 29th Superior General on 13 September 1983.[4]

Resignation and retirement

On 2 February 2006, Kolvenbach informed the members of the Society of Jesus that, he intended to step down in 2008, the year he would turn 80. As the Superior General is elected for life, Kolvenbach was only the second to resign the office.

The 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus convened on 5 January 2008 in Rome. On 14 January it accepted Kolvenbach's resignation and elected Adolfo Nicolás as his successor.[5]

Kolvenbach died in Beirut on 26 November 2016.[6]


Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. Superior General of the Society of Jesus at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 September 2007)

  1. Thomas E. Zeyen, S.J. Jesuit Generals: A Glance into a Forgotten Corner. University of Scranton Press, 2004
  2. 1 2 Wooden, Cindy (28 November 2016). "Father Kolvenbach, former Jesuit superior, dies in Beirut". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  3. Stanley, Alexandra (22 December 1999). "Cardinal Paolo Dezza, 98; Guided the Jesuits". New York Times. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  4. "Dutchman Elected Leader of Jesuits". New York Times. 14 September 1983. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  5. "Spaniard becomes Jesuits' New 'Black Pope'". Reuters. 19 January 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  6. Cosacchi, Daniel (26 November 2016). "The Spiritual Legacy of Peter-Hans Kolvenbach". America. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pedro Arrupe
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Succeeded by
Adolfo Nicolás
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