Pope and Black Pope
Benedic XVI & New Black Pope Superior General Aldolfo Nicolas
List of Black Popes
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
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, also known as the Jesuits. He is generally addressed as Father General. The position carries the nickname of Black Pope, after his simple black priest’s vestments, as contrasted to the white garb of the Pope. The current Superior General is the Reverend Father Adolfo Nicolás.
The formal title in Latin is Praepositus Generalis, which may fairly be rendered as “superior general” or even, “president general”. The term is not of military origin, despite popular misconceptions, but is derived from “general”, as opposed to “particular” (as with many other Catholic religious orders, like the Dominicans’ “master general”, Franciscans’ “minister general”, Carthusians’ “prior general”, etc. and many civil posts, such as Postmaster General, Attorney General and Receiver General). The Jesuits are organized into provinces, each with a provincial superior, (usually referred to as the “Provincial Father” 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 “The Very Reverend”.
“Black Pope” is a derogatory nickname given to the Superior General, usually by the media (and never used by the Jesuits themselves). The name comes partly from the color of the plain black priest’s cassock, worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General and partly from a past concern, (most prominent around the 16th and 17th centuries), amongst Protestant European countries, concerning the relative power of the Jesuits within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Superior General is invested with ordinary power over the members of the Society, similar to the power given to a bishop over the people of a diocese. Superiors General submit themselves to the direct authority of and service to the Pope, not local ordinaries.
Superiors General are elected by the General Congregation of the Society, summoned upon the resignation, retirement or death of an incumbent. Superiors General are elected for life and almost all have served life terms, the exceptions being Father Pedro Arrupe (resigned for reasons of failing health) and his successor, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach. Kolvenbach’s resignation was announced in February 2006, which led to the convocation of the 35th General Congregation. That General Congregation elected the current Superior General of the Society, Father Adolfo Nicolás, who succeeded Kolvenbach
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:
Stanislaus Czerniewicz (October 17, 1782–October 21, 1785)
Gabriel Lenkiewicz (October 8, 1785–October 21, 1798)
Franciszek Kareu (February 12, 1799–March 7, 1801)
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:
Franciszek Kareu (March 7, 1801–August 11, 1802)
Gabriel Gruber (October 22, 1802–April 6, 1805)
Tadeusz Brzozowski (September 14, 1805–August 7, 1814)
The order was restored on August 7, 1814, by Pope Pius VII, through the papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum.
The Jesuits had been expelled from Brazil (1754), Portugal (1759), France (1764), Spain and its colonies (1767) and Parma (1768). Though he had to face strong pressure on the part of the ambassadors of the Bourbon courts, Pope Clement XIII always refused to yield to their demands to have the Society of Jesus suppressed. The issue had reached such a crisis point, however, that the question seems to have been the main issue determining the outcome of the conclave of 1769 that was called to elect a successor to Clement XIII. Giovanni Cardinal Ganganelli, a Conventual Franciscan friar, was elected and took the name of Clement XIV.
For a few years Clement XIV tried to placate the enemies of the Jesuits by treating them harshly: he refused to meet the Superior General, Lorenzo Ricci, ordered them not to receive novices, etc., to no avail. The pressure kept building up to the point that Catholic countries were threatening to break away from the Church. Clement XIV ultimately yielded “in the name of peace of the Church and to avoid of secession in Europe” and suppressed the Society of Jesus by the brief Dominus ac Redemptor on 21 July 1773.
Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, S.J., S.T.D. (born April 29, 1936) is a Spanish priest of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the thirtieth and current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the largest male religious order in the Church.
Adolfo Nicolás was born in Villamuriel de Cerrato, Palencia, and entered the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits, in the novitiate of Aranjuez in 1953. He studied at the University of Alcalá, there earning his licentiate in philosophy, until 1960, whence he traveled to Japan to familiarize himself with Japanese language and culture. Nicolás entered Sophia University in Tokyo, where he studied theology, in 1964, and was later ordained to the priesthood on March 17, 1967.
From 1968 to 1971, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from where he earned a doctorate in theology. Upon his return to Japan, Nicolás was made professor of systematic theology at his alma mater of Sophia University, teaching there for the next thirty years.
He was Director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University, in Quezon City, Philippines, from 1978 to 1984, and later served as rector of the theologate in Tokyo from 1991 to 1993, when he was appointed Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Japan. Nicolás remained in this post until 1999, and then spent four years doing pastoral work among poor immigrants in Tokyo.
In 2004 he returned to the Philippines after he was named President of the Jesuit Conference of Provincials for Eastern Asia and Oceania. As Moderator, he was at the service of the Jesuits of several countries, including Australia, China, Japan, Korea,Micronesia, Myanmar, and East Timor.
On the second ballot of the thirty-fifth General Congregation (GC XXXV) of the Society of Jesus, Nicolás was elected as the Order’s thirtieth Superior General on January 19, 2008, succeeding the Dutch Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach. His election was immediately relayed to Pope Benedict XVI, who confirmed him in the post. Many have marked the similarities between Nicolás and former Superior General Fr. Pedro Arrupe, who, after having suffered a stroke, became the first Jesuit superior general to resign his office- with the urging and acceptance of the Vatican under Pope John Paul II. Father Arrupe, like his eventual successor, was a Spanish missionary in Japan; Nicolás has described Arrupe, whom he had earlier had as Provincial Superior, as a “great missionary, a national hero, a man on fire”. He leads a congregation which currently numbers 18,500 members.
Beliefs and values
He once stated, “Asia has a lot yet to offer the Church, to the whole Church, but we haven’t done it yet. Maybe we have not been courageous enough, or we haven’t taken the risks we should”. In an article on Nicolás, Michael McVeigh said that Nicolás has also expressed his wariness of missionaries who are more concerned with teaching and imposing orthodoxy than in having a cultural experience with the local people, saying, “Those who enter into the lives of the people, they begin to question their own positions very radically.”
In the homily of the Mass celebrated after his election as Superior General, Nicolás emphasized service, based on the scriptural reading for that day, the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and Benedict XVI’s teaching on God is love. He stated: “The more we become as servants, the more pleased God is.” Delving further on the scriptural passage and after relating an anecdote of experiences with the poor in Asia, he related poverty with having God as the only source of strength, pointing out that the Jesuit’s strength is not in externals (power, media, etc.) nor in internal fortitude (research). “The poor only have God in whom to find strength. For us only God is our strength.”
Nicolas also developed the following ideas: the message of the Jesuits is “a message of salvation” and the challenge of discerning the type of salvation that people today are waiting for.
Obedience to Rome
After receiving a message from Pope Benedict asking the Society of Jesus to affirm its fidelity to the magisterium and the Holy See, the Congregation presided by Nicolás responded, “The Society of Jesus was born within the Church, we live in the Church, we were approved by the Church and we serve the Church. This is our vocation…[Unity with the pope] is the symbol of our union with Christ. It also is the guarantee that our mission will not be a ‘small mission,’ a project just of the Jesuits, but that our mission is the mission of the Church.”
In a November 2008 interview with El Periodico, Nicolás described liberation theology as a “courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America.” These remarks are particularly controversial since some forms of liberation theology have been denounced by Pope John Paul II and by Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, the Superior General also added, “As with any theology, liberation theology needs years to mature. It’s a shame that it has not been given a vote of confidence and that soon its wings will be cut before it learns to fly. It needs more time.”