Jesuits Prepare for Election of New Superior General

October 12, 2016 — This Friday, the 212 electors meeting in Rome for the Jesuits’ General Congregation 36 will choose their new leader, the man who will serve as superior general of the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ (center), resigned as Superior General of the Society of Jesus on Oct. 3; on Oct. 14, the Jesuits will elect a new leader.

Last week, the congregation voted to accept the resignation of Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, 80, who has served as superior general since 2008. Fr. Nicolás convoked the congregation so the delegates, who were both appointed and elected and represent 66 countries, could vote on his successor and thoughtfully examine the state of the Society of Jesus around the world. In its 476-year history, the Jesuits have only had 30 superior generals.

Jesuit delegates celebrated Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on Oct. 7.

The day of the election will begin with a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit at Santo Spirito Church, the 12th-century church across the street from the Jesuit Curia, headquarters of the Society of Jesus. The delegates will concelebrate mass, offering prayers to entrust the election process to God, and then return to the Curia. In silence, they will assemble in the Aula, the meeting hall that has been used for general congregations since the Jesuits established their headquarters at 4 Borgo Santo Spirito, near the Vatican, in 1927.

Jesuits will celebrate a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit at Santo Spirito Church in Rome prior to the election of a new superior general.

The delegates will pray silently in the Aula for one hour, and when it’s time for the election, each will take an oath and then write a name on a ballot and sign it. Unlike a traditional election, there is no prepared ballot, no candidates, no politicking and no campaigning.

After Mass, Jesuits will return to the Aula for an hour of prayer before the election.

The Secretary of the congregation will read the ballots aloud. The new superior general will be elected by a majority of 50 percent plus one, which, in this case, is 107 votes. If there is no majority on the first ballot, subsequent ballots are held until a majority is reached.

Jesuits in conversation during the murmuratio.

On Monday, October 10, the delegates began four days of murmuratio, a process designed by St. Ignatius, who, with his companions, founded the Jesuits in 1540 and served as the order’s first superior general. During the murmuratio period, the delegates have one-on-one conversations and share information about the qualities required for a superior general, sharing names of those who might be candidates for the order’s highest office. A process unique to the Jesuits, the murmuratio helps prepare electors for the responsibility of choosing a new leader, but the grace of the Holy Spirit is the most important part of electing a new superior general. 

Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit for more information.

[Source: Jesuits [Conference of Canada and the United States]


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