We left the election hall only a few minutes ago. I am glad to announce that we have a new Superior General of the Society of Jesus. There is immense joy as the members of the Congregation approach the new General to greet and embrace him. Adolfo Nicolás SJ is a man from Asia, a theologian from Japan, but he was born in Palencia, Spain, in 1936. He represents a new generation of Spanish missionaries in Japan, after Fr. Arrupe.
He joined the Society of Jesus in the novitiate of Aranjuez, a small village close to Madrid, in 1953. After completing his studies of Philosophy in Alcalá, Madrid, in 1960 he went to Japan to immerse himself in Japanese language and culture. In 1964 he commenced his theological studies at Sophia University, Tokyo, and was ordained priest on the 17th March 1967, in Tokyo.
After obtaining a Masters degree in theology at the Gregorian Universality, Rome, he returned to Japan to become a professor of systematic theology at Sophia University. From 1978 to 1984 he became the director of the Pastoral Institute at Manila, Philippines and then Rector of the house for young Asian Jesuit students of theology. From 1993 to 1999 he was Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Japan.
After this stint in ‘power’ he spent three years working in a poor immigrant parish in Tokyo. His work was difficult but he was able to help thousands of Philippine and Asian immigrants and to get a first-hand experience of their suffering. In a way, his love for the poor and downtrodden can become now, after so many years, his most important ministry.
In 2004 he was called again to exercise governing functions, and was made responsible for the entire Jesuit region of East Asia, comprising countries from Myanmar to East Timor, including the new province of China. It was during these years that he was able to support the phenomenal growth of the Jesuit presence in Vietnam and other countries.
Somebody might say that, after celebrating the centenary of Fr. Arrupe, the Society has elected a General very much in a similar line. It is as if the Society would like to re-affirm once more its missionary character and its commitment to all peoples and cultures.
Congratulations, Fr. Adolfo!
Fr. Fernando Franco SJ