December 6, 2017 — Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, 29th Superior
General of the Society of Jesus, passed away on November 26, 2016; one year
later he was remembered by the Jesuit Curia in Rome with the launch of a new
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.