On January 19, 2008, Father Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., moderator of the East Asian Assistancy, was elected 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
Since Saint Ignatius was elected as the Society’s first Superior General in 1540, the Superior General has always been elected for life by a “General Congregation” of Jesuits, representatives of their provinces around the world.
The Superior General, who is based in Rome at the Jesuit Curia, guides the order according to the Constitutions and Norms and the Guidelines of the General Congregations. The two last Superior Generals, Frs. Pedro Arrupe (1965-1983) and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach (1983-2008) received permission from the pope to step down as Superior General.
Biography of Father Adolfo Nicolás, S.J.
Born on April 29, 1936, in Villamuriel de Cerrato (Palencia province), Spain, Father Nicolás entered the Jesuit novitiate in Aranjuez in 1952 in what was then the Province of Toledo. His philosophy studies were done in Alcala de Henares, obtaining his Ph.L. in 1960. He then left for Japan for language studies. In 1964-1968 he studied theology in Tokyo and was ordained a priest there in 1967. From 1968 to 1971 he did his doctoral work at the Gregorian and wrote his doctoral dissertation, Theology of Progress.
In 1971, he became professor of systematic theology at Sophia University in Tokyo. From 1978 to 1984 he was director of the Pastoral Institute in Manila, Philippines. Formed after Vatican II, the Institute has had wide influence in the theological renewal of Asia. From 1991 to 1993 he was Rector of the house of Jesuit students in Tokyo. In 1993 he was made Provincial of Japan and, in that capacity, he attended GC34 in 1995, where on the first ballot he was elected Secretary of the Congregation.
After those years in governance, he moved to a poor parish of immigrants in Tokyo and lived there from 2000 to 2003. His work was difficult, but he was able to help thousands of Filipino and Asian immigrants, in the process gaining a firsthand experience of their suffering. In this way, his love for the poor and oppressed became his most important ministry.
In 2004 he was again called to exercise governance ministry when he was named Moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania. This means he was responsible for the entire region of South Asia, from Myanmar (Burma) to East Timor, including the newly formed China Province. During these years he was a firm supporter of the Jesuit presence in Vietnam and other countries.
He was made a member of the Coetus Previus (preparatory commission) of GC35 and on January 19, 2008 was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
He speaks six languages: Spanish, Catalan, Japanese, English, French and Italian.