December 6, 2017 — Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, passed away on Nov. 26, 2016; one year later he was remembered by the Jesuit Curia in Rome with the launch of a new website, kolvenbach.jesuitgeneral.org.
Additionally, on Nov. 24, Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ, renamed the library at the Curia the Peter-Hans Kolvenbach Library. Fr. Kolvenbach was an avid user of the library throughout his stay at the Curia.
Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ, renamed the Jesuit Curia library after Fr. Kolvenbach.
The new website is dedicated to the life and work of Fr. Kolvenbach and includes a biography, testimonials, archives of speeches and photographs, and Fr. Kolvenbach’s writings on the themes of religious life, Ignatian spirituality, and Ignatian pedagogy.
Born in Druten, Netherlands, on Nov. 30, 1928, Fr. Kolvenbach lived most of his teen years during the German occupation of the Netherlands. He came to know the Society of Jesus through his secondary studies at Canisius College, and after a year of studying Latin and Greek, he entered the Jesuit novitiate on Sept. 7, 1948.
He studied philosophy at the Berchmans Institute of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and was sent to Lebanon in 1958. From the start of his new assignment, he dedicated himself to the study of Arabic through direct contact with people. In his new mission in the Near East, he specialized in the Armenian language and literature, and he studied at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut for four years.
Fr. Kolvenbach (right) concelebrating Mass with Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, 28th Superior General of the Society.
Fr. Kolvenbach was ordained a priest in the Armenian Rite on June 29, 1961. He continued to study philosophy and linguistics in Beirut and Paris. He served as a both a professor of linguistics at St. Joseph University and as vice-provincial of the Jesuits’ Near East Vice-Province, which includes Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. In 1981 he was appointed as rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, a position he held until his election as Superior General in 1983.
Fr. Kolvenbach's audience with Pope Saint John Paul II.
As Superior General, Fr. Kolvenbach visited as many Jesuit provinces and individual Jesuits as he could. In 1995 he directed the Jesuits’ General Congregation 34, which addressed issues including the mission of the Society in the modern world.
In February 2006, Fr. Kolvenbach informed the members of the Society of Jesus of his intention, with the consent of Pope Benedict XVI, to step down. His resignation was accepted at General Congregation 35 in 2008. Upon retirement Fr. Kolvenbach returned to Beirut, making his home in a Jesuit community, where he served as assistant librarian.