Superior General of the Society of Jesus

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Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Praepositus Generalis
Seal of the Society of Jesus
Arturo Sosa in January 2017.jpg
Arturo Sosa

since 14 October 2016
Formation19 April 1541
First holder Ignatius of Loyola

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 which is also known as the Jesuits. He is generally addressed as Father General. The position sometimes carries the nickname of the Black Pope, because of his responsibility for the largest Catholic, male religious order and is contrasted to the white garb of the pope. The thirty-first and current superior general is the Reverend Father Arturo Sosa, elected by the 36th General Congregation on 14 October 2016. [1]



Ignatius of Loyola, first Superior General Ignatius Loyola.jpg
Ignatius of Loyola, 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 like that of military usage (and Ignatius of Loyola had a military background) which is derived from "general", as opposed to "particular". This usage is consistent with other Catholic religious orders, like the Dominicans' "master general", Franciscans' "minister general", Carthusians' "prior general", and with civil posts such as Postmaster General and Attorney General. The Jesuits are organized into provinces, each with a provincial superior, (usually referred to as the "Father Provincial" or just "Provincial"), with the head of the order being the "general superior", for the whole organization. As a major superior, the Superior General is styled "Very Reverend".

Black Pope

"Black Pope" is an unofficial designation given to the position of Superior General of the Order of the Jesuits. [2] The name follows from his leadership of the largest Catholic, male religious order [3] and from the colour of the plain black cassock worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General. [4] This may have originated from a past concern (most prominent around the 16th and 17th centuries) among Protestant European countries concerning the relative power of the Jesuits within the Roman Catholic Church, and partly because the Superior General, like the Pope, is elected for life.

Pedro Arrupe Pedro Arrupe, S.J., memorial - University of San Francisco - San Francisco, CA - DSC02663.JPG
Pedro Arrupe


The Superior General is invested with governing power over all the members of the Society, but customarily leads through Provincial superiors under him. Such power follows from the religious vows that bind members to community life, as in other religious orders.


Superiors General are elected by the General Congregation of the Society, summoned upon the resignation or death of an incumbent. Superiors General are elected for life and up to recently, as with the Popes, have served life terms. The exceptions being Father Pedro Arrupe (resigned for reasons of failing health) and both his successors, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach and Father Adolfo Nicolás. On 2 October 2016, General Congregation 36 convened in Rome, convoked by Superior General Nicolás, and it elected Father Arturo Sosa as the thirty-first Superior General.

List of Superiors General

Until the 21st century, it was customary for Superiors General to rule for life. Where they left office before death, the date of death is listed below the date they left office. (Pedro Arrupe resigned in 1983 after a paralyzing stroke.)

No.Superior GeneralPortraitTook officeLeft office
Birthplace [lower-alpha 1] Duration (in days)
1 Ignatius of Loyola Ignatius von Loyola.jpg April 19, 1541July 31, 1556 Azpeitia, Spain 5,582
2 Diego Laynez Portret van de jezuiet Jacobus Laynez Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuieten (serietitel) Effigies praepositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1910-4016.jpg July 2, 1558January 19, 1565 Almazán, Spain2,393
3 Francis Borgia Portret van de jezuiet Franciscus Borgia Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuieten (serietitel) Effigies praepositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1913-2512.jpg July 2, 1565October 1, 1572 Gandia, Spain2,648
4 Everard Mercurian Portret van de jezuiet Everardus Mercurianus Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuieten (serietitel) Effigies praepositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1907-3912.jpg April 23, 1573August 1, 1580 La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium 2,657
5 Claudio Acquaviva Portret van de jezuiet Claudius Aquaviva Portretten van generaal oversten van de jezuieten (serietitel) Effigies praepositorvm generalivm societatis Iesv (serietitel), RP-P-1909-1354.jpg February 19, 1581January 31, 1615 Atri, Italy 12,399
6 Mutio Vitelleschi Mutio Vitelleschi - Ordensgeneral der Jesuiten.jpg November 15, 1615February 9, 1645 Rome, Italy10,679
7 Vincenzo Carafa Ritratti de prepositi generali della Compagnia di Gesu-Carafa.jpg January 7, 1646June 8, 1649 Naples, Italy1,248
8 Francesco Piccolomini Ritratti de prepositi generali della Compagnia di Gesu-piccolomini.jpg December 21, 1649June 17, 1651 Siena, Italy543
9 Aloysius Gottifredi AlexanderGottifredi.png January 21, 1652March 12, 1652Rome, Italy51
10 Goschwin Nickel Goswin Nickel.jpg March 17, 1652July 31, 1664 Jülich, Germany 4,519
11 Giovanni Paolo Oliva Giovanni Paolo Oliva.png July 31, 1664November 26, 1681 Genoa, Italy6,327
12 Charles de Noyelle CharlesNoyelle.JPG July 5, 1682December 12, 1686 Brussels, Belgium1,621
13 Thyrsus González de Santalla Thyrsus Gonzalez - Ordensgeneral der Jesuiten.jpg July 6, 1687October 27, 1705 Arganza, Spain6,688
14 Michelangelo Tamburini MTamburini.jpg January 31, 1706February 28, 1730 Modena, Italy8,521
15 Franz Retz FRetz.jpg March 7, 1730November 19, 1750 Prague, Bohemia 7,562
16 Ignacio Visconti IVisconti.jpg July 4, 1751May 4, 1755 Milan, Italy1,389
17 Aloysius Centurione ACenturione.jpg November 30, 1755October 2, 1757Genoa, Italy672
18 Lorenzo Ricci LRicci.jpg May 21, 1758August 16, 1773
November 24, 1775
July 21, 1773
( suppressed )
Florence, Italy5,566
Stanislaus Czerniewicz [lower-alpha 2] Stanislaus Czerniewicz, SJ.jpg October 17, 1782October 21, 1785 Kaunas, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1,100
Gabriel Lenkiewicz [lower-alpha 2] October 8, 1785October 21, 1798 Polotsk, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth4,761
Franciszek Kareu [lower-alpha 3] Franciszek Kareu (1731-1802).jpg February 12, 1799August 11, 1802 Orsha, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth1,275
Gabriel Gruber [lower-alpha 4] Gabriel Gruber.jpg October 22, 1802April 6, 1805 Vienna, Austria 897
19 Tadeusz Brzozowski [lower-alpha 5] T.Brzozowski.jpg August 7, 1814February 5, 1820 Königsberg, Prussia 2,008
20 Luigi Fortis Fortis.jpg October 18, 1820January 27, 1829 Verona, Italy3,023
21 Jan Roothaan Jean-Philippe Roothaan (1785-1853)b.jpg July 9, 1829May 8, 1853 Amsterdam, Netherlands 8,704
22 Peter Jan Beckx Pierre-Jean Beckx (22eme General des Jesuites).jpg August 2, 1853March 4, 1887 Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium12,267
23 Anton Anderledy Anderledy.jpg March 4, 1887January 18, 1892 Berisal, Switzerland 1,781
24 Luis Martín Gemalde - Luis Martin SJ.jpg October 2, 1892April 18, 1906 Melgar de Fernamental, Spain4,945
25 Franz Xavier Wernz Gemalde - Franz Xaver Wernz SJ.jpg September 8, 1906August 20, 1914 Rottweil, Germany2,903
26 Wlodimir Ledóchowski Ledochowski.tif February 11, 1915December 13, 1942 Loosdorf, Austria10,167
27 Jean-Baptiste Janssens Jean-Baptiste Janssens (1889-1964).jpg September 15, 1946October 5, 1964 Mechelen, Belgium6,595
28 Pedro Arrupe Bilbao - Universidad de Deusto, Monumento a Pedro Arrupe.jpg May 22, 1965September 3, 1983
February 5, 1991
Bilbao, Spain6,678
29 Peter Hans Kolvenbach KolvenbachCut.png September 13, 1983January 14, 2008
November 26, 2016
Druten, Netherlands8,889
30 Adolfo Nicolás AdolfoNicolas.jpg January 19, 2008October 3, 2016
May 20, 2020
Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain3,169
31 Arturo Sosa Arturo Sosa in January 2017.jpg October 14, 2016Incumbent Caracas, Venezuela 2,106

Leadership during suppression

Saint Francis Borgia, depicted performing an exorcism, served as the third Superior General. St. Francis Borgia Helping a Dying Impenitent by Goya.jpg
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


  1. Lists the present-day name and nationality of the city in question.
  2. 1 2 Vicar General
  3. Vicar General until March 7, 1801, Superior General for Russia thereafter.
  4. Superior General for Russia only.
  5. Superior General for Russia only from September 14, 1805 to August 7, 1814.

Related Research Articles

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Luis Martín

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Peter Hans Kolvenbach

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Luigi Fortis

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Tadeusz Brzozowski

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Gabriel Gruber

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Franciszek Kareu

Franciszek Kareu was a Polish-British Jesuit priest, missionary and teacher in the region of modern day Belarus. He was elected Temporary Vicar General of the Society of Jesus in Russia from 1799 to 1801.

Gabriel Lenkiewicz, actually Gabriel Lenkiewicz-Ipohorski, Kotwicz coat of arms, was a Polish-Lithuanian Jesuit priest, and Temporary Vicar General of the Society of Jesus from 1785 until 1798, at a time when under Papal suppression in all Catholic countries, the Society continued in Russia.

Stanislaus Czerniewicz

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Peter Jan Beckx Jesuit

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Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum was a papal bull issued in 1814 by Pope Pius VII, reestablishing the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) after its suppression by the 1773 bull issued by Clement XIV, Dominus ac Redemptor. Nevertheless, the order continued to exist in some places. Pius VII had earlier, with the brief Catholicae Fidei, approved the existence of the Society of Jesus in Russia. The Vicar General, Franciszek Kareu, was declared "Superior General of the Jesuits in Russia."

Adolfo Nicolás Spanish Catholic priest (1936–2020)

Adolfo Nicolás Pachón was a Spanish Jesuit priest of the Catholic Church. He was the 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 2008 to 2016. Before being elected Superior General, he worked primarily in Japan; he taught at Sophia University in Tokyo for twenty years and then headed educational institutions in Manila from 1978 to 1984 and in Tokyo from 1991 to 1993. He led the Jesuits in Japan from 1993 to 1996 and, after four years of pastoral work in Tokyo, led the Jesuits in Asia from 2004 to 2008.

Paolo Dezza, S.J. was a Roman Catholic Jesuit cardinal who led the Pontifical Gregorian University during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, whom he aided in the preparation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. He was confessor to Pope Paul VI and Paul's successor, Pope John Paul I, and was a teacher of Pope John Paul I's successor, Pope John Paul II.

Jean-Yves Calvez was a French Jesuit, theologian, philosopher, economist, expert in Marxism and professor of social philosophy.

Arturo Sosa Venezuelan priest (born 1948)

Arturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal is a Venezuelan Jesuit priest who is the 31st and present superior general of the Society of Jesus. He was elected Superior General by the Society's 36th General Congregation on 14 October 2016, succeeding Adolfo Nicolás. He is the first person born in Latin America to lead the Jesuits.

Francis Dzierozynski was a Polish Catholic priest and Jesuit who became a prominent missionary to the United States. Born in the town of Orsha, in the Russian Empire, he entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1806. He taught and studied in Polotsk and Mogilev until leading students in an escape from the French invasion of Russia in 1812. He returned to Polotsk, where he taught until the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Russian Empire in 1820. Thereafter, he took up teaching in Bologna, Italy.


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  2. commandprompt6 (1993). A view from Rome: on the eve of the modernist crisis. Fordham University Press. p. Back cover. ISBN   0823213595.
  3. "Jesuit | religious order". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  4. "Spaniard becomes Jesuits' new "black pope"". Reuters. 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2022-01-19.