Today the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will begin in Rome. During the meeting, 225 Jesuit delegates from around the world will elect a new general superior to replace their outgoing leader Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach.
The delegates will also address a number of modern-day challenges facing the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Also on the table are discussions about issues related to the society’s internal life, including the dramatic decline in the number of vocations in the West and the growth of vocations in the East, especially in India.
The issues discussed are taken from petitions that any Jesuit—regardless of whether nor not he is a delegate to the Congregation—can send in beforehand. Some of the 225 delegates attend because of their position in the Society, but most are commissioned to attend by their local provinces or regions.
Of the 225 delegates (not including the Father General), 217 will be able to vote for the new superior. The remaining eight will only be involved in the discussions. The Congregation will be opened on Monday morning at the Church of Gesu.
New General Superior
The first part of the General Congregation will be devoted to the election of a new superior to replace Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, who will be stepping down. Sources within the Society of Jesus said that in the process for electing a new superior, “there are no candidacies or campaigns. In fact, it is forbidden to carry them out in favor of or against a particular Jesuit.”
In order to prepare for the elections, a report on the challenges facing the Society of Jesus is presented at the outset of the general congregation, allowing the electors to discern which type of person and which qualities are needed in the new superior.
After a few day of discussion among the delegates, the voting will take place by secret ballot. For the first time in history, voting will be done electronically. 110 votes are needed to be elected.
The closing date of the Congregation has yet to be determined. The meetings will be held at the General Curia of the Society of Jesus, located in Rome near the colonnade that surrounds St. Peter’s Square.
The official languages of the Congregation will be Spanish, English, French and German.