Skip to comments.Habemus Papam: Jesuits Go Ad Orientem
Posted on 01/19/2008 2:59:46 PM PST by NYer
In a dramatic echo of the Arrupe legacy, Fr Adolfo Nicolás -- the Spanish-born head of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania -- has been elected the Society's 30th Superior-General and was rapidly confirmed in the post by Benedict XVI.
Based until now in Tokyo, Nicolás immediately takes the reins of the church's largest community of professed men.
Unlike the vast majority of those tipped for the post, the new Father-General comes short on Roman experience -- a former provincial of Japan, the theologian spent three years of study at the Gregorian University before a three decade run as a professor at Tokyo's Sofia University. He turns 72 in late April.
Hailed as "warm, bright, forward-thinking, wise, and serene" -- among other glowing attributes -- Nicolás speaks English, Italian, French, Japanese and Spanish. His election by the 217 delegates of the 35th General Congregation took place on the second ballot.
We have left the election hall 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 Nicolas SJ is a man from Asia, a theologian from Japan, but born in Palencia Spain in 1936. He represents a new generation of Spanish missionaries in Japan after Fr. Arrupe.From a 2007 profile:
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 goes to Japan to immerse himself in Japanese language and culture. In 1964 commences his Theological studies at Sophia University, Tokyo and is ordained priest on the 17th March 1967 in Tokyo.
After obtaining a Masters degree in Theology at the Gregorian Universality, Rome, he returns to Japan to become a professor of systematic theology at Sophia University. From 1978 to 1984 he becomes 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 becomes 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 is difficult but he is able to help thousands of Philippine and Asian immigrants and gets 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 is called again to exercise governing functions, and is appointed 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 his own 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.
Its been 46 years since Father Adolfo Nicolás first traveled to Japan as a missionary from Spain. His has been a long conversation, first in Japan, but also in Korea and more recently in the Philippines. Its left him convinced that the West does not have a monopoly on meaning and spirituality, and can learn a lot from the experience of Asian cultures.
Asia has a lot yet to offer to the Church, to the whole Church, but we havent done it yet, he says. Maybe we have not been courageous enough, or we havent taken the risks that we should.
It speaks volumes that when Father Nicolás talks about Asia, he uses the term we. As President of the Jesuit Conference of South East Asia and Oceania, hes responsible for bringing Jesuits across the region together to think beyond their own countries, and confront challenges facing the globe.
The group he represents stretches from China and Myanmar in the west, to Korea in the north, Australia in the south, and Micronesia in the east. It brings together an incredibly diverse group of cultures and societies. From countries where Christianity has been strong in the past, but is on the wane, to places where Christians make up a small but vibrant minority.
Asked if people from a culture like Japan experience Ignatian Spirituality differently than those in the West, Father Nicolás says the experience was indeed different, but it had yet to be formulated.
I think the real experience of the Japanese is different. And it should be different. But the formulation continues to be very much a Western formulation, he says.
A Japanese Jesuit, Father Katoaki, has recently translated and added comments on the book of the Exercises from a Japanese-Buddhist perspective. Father Adolfo says there has also been some discussion on whether the Exercises could be presented to non-Christians, and how that might occur.
The question is how to give the Ignatian experience to a Buddhist, he says. Not maybe formulated in Christian terms, which is what Ignatius asked, but to go to the core of the experience. What happens to a person that goes through a number of exercises that really turn a person inside-out. This is still for us a big challenge.
While some work has been done comparing the Ignatian experience with that of Hindus, he says there hasnt been a lot of work on finding similarities say in Japanese, Chinese or Korean cultures. He says East Asia has been more slow to do this in India, partly because the East Asians have a strong respect for tradition, and hence a respect for Christianitys European traditions. However, the regions remoteness also gives it more freedom to be creative.
There is more space for experimenting, for trying, for thinking and exchanging, he says.
Essentially, he says the Exercises are about letting God guide people. This is something that those directing retreats have been wary of in the past, but something that is important when dealing with people from different cultural backgrounds.
The fact is, if God is guiding then the Japanese will be guided the Japanese way. And the same with the Chinese, and with people from other religions, he says.
Then the director simply has to be perceptive, to see signs that here God is saying something that I dont understand, and be humble enough to say continue as long as you keep sane and balanced etc.
Others throughout Asia are dealing more directly with questions of cultural difference, working as missionaries in countries like Cambodia and Myanmar. Father Nicolás says hes wary of missionaries who dont enter into the lives of the people, but keep the patterns of their home cultures Europe or Latin America - alive in their mind. For them, its not about exchange but about teaching and imposing orthodoxy.
Those who enter into the lives of the people, they begin to question their own positions very radically, he says. Because they see genuine humanity in the simple people, and yet they see that this genuine humanity is finding a depth of simplicity, of honesty, of goodness that does not come from our sources.
That conversation must continue, if we are to learn from Asia and Asia is to learn from us.
That is a tremendous challenge, and I think its a challenge that we have to face. We dont have a monopoly, and we have a lot to learn.'
Can we be realistic?PHOTO: Don Doll SJ
I can still remember GC34. They are fond, humorous and challenging memories. But we were not realistic.
Just imagine: 220 Jesuits decide to tackle 46 topics, work on them for three months, produce 26 documents and solemnly handle and approve 416 complementary norms. Thus, we were not surprised when crises emerged: crises of content, of management, and of hope. Next year we will be close to 230 members.
It is my ardent hope that we be realistic as to what a GC can do decently well, what it cannot, and what it should leave to the new Father-General and his team.
Can we be transparent?
Transparency has become more difficult in our small world. When was the last time that a great leader could confess substantial sins in public and continue leading the flock, the country, the Church?
And yet, our GCs have always started with an honest and frank acknowledgment of where we are going wrong, what is missing in our lives, what has been distorted or wounded of our spirit, what needs conversion, renewal or radical reform.
It is my sincere hope that we can do that again.
Can we be accompanied?
The best of a General Congregation is the event itself, as an event of the heart'. This is a time of intensive search and of exhilarating exchange, where questions and answers do not come lineally, but dance within us and around us, at the rhythm of fraternal and humble mutual openness.
My hope is that this happens to the whole Society of Jesus. I hope that we all take an active part in preparing the Congregation from inside our common issues. Prayer, reflection and exchange are the gift and the contribution.
I hope that those who do not go to Rome, will monitor and follow events closely, with the same hope, the same intensity of search, the same willingness to change and be led by the Spirit of our Lord. This will be our best accompaniment.
Can we be creative?
I have a feeling, still imprecise and difficult to define, that there is something important in our religious life that needs attention and is not getting it. We have certainly been diligent in addressing our problems whenever we have seen them: Poverty (GC32 in 1974 and 34 in 1995), Chastity (GC34), Community (Provincials at Loyola)... But the uneasiness in the Society and in the Church has not disappeared.
The question for us is: Is it enough that we are happy with our life and are improving our service and ministry? Isn't there also an important factor in the perception of people (Vox Populi) that should drive us to some deeper reflection on religious life today? How come we elicit so much admiration and so little following?
Thus, one of my hopes is that in GC35 we begin a process of dynamic and open reflection on our religious life that might begin a process of re-creation of the Society for our times, not only in the quality of our services, but also and mostly in the quality of our personal and community witness to the Church and the World.
Can we be practical?
The age in which we live and our younger Jesuits will live, is an age of very rapid change. New technologies and new communication possibilities can make a great difference. We are using some. We do not feel free to use others. Maybe a certain restraint in using new means might be good for us. Maybe not. It is so difficult to know what is going to happen seven, ten years from now.
It is my hope that the coming GC opens the way for future General Congregations, giving the new General and his Council the freedom to discern and choose the best means to prepare and to run the Congregations of the future.
Can we be short?
We would not like GC35 to become another exercise in patience. A General Congregation is not a "Panacea" for all the problems we might face. It is a help of great value, but basically oriented to the ongoing growth in the Spirit and the Apostolate of the whole Society.
Thus, my final hope is that we will be so clear as to the purposes, and so focused in our work, that we can do this service to the Society and the Church within a reasonably short time.
Prior to his election as superior general of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas admitted to an uneasy feeling about the Society of Jesus:
I have a feeling, still imprecise and difficult to define, that there is something important in our religious life that needs attention and is not getting it.
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Put that in your Conference and smoke it.
Let’s hope that Fr Adolfo Nicolás doesn’t resemble Fr. Arrupe too closely, even though he is said to represent his legacy. Frankly, Fr. Arrupe was a disaster, who permitted, or possibly encouraged, the Jesuits to go further and further into dissent and (apparently) homosexuality.
The Order has been decaying for decades, growing smaller and smaller and further and further from its former loyalty to the Church.
This may be the last chance to turn it around, if it isn’t already too late. Pray that they chose the right man for the job.
Sorry, but Ignatius and the "Ignatian experience" were all about Christ and being a Christian.
If the good Fr. Nicolas wants to be a Zen master, he should go off and do it on his own dime and leave the Jesuits to get back to following Christ.
Oh, dear. Say it isn’t so.
Sigh, they need to dump the New Age angst and get back to preaching the Gospel in and out of season. Maybe they should be required to study the lives of the Jesuit missionaries and martyrs who have been raised to the altars.
I’m thinking that this priest is on the right track for the Jesuits.
Even some of the followers of Jesus left when the teaching was too hard for them. We shall see if some Jesuits, too, leave, because the teaching will be too hard for them.
>> In a dramatic echo of the Arrupe legacy, <<
Dear God, help us.
Or is this another step in the wrong direction?
If this guy is much like the author paints him to be, Habemus Pablum.
His six hopes sound like anything you would hear at a Moose Lodge convention or the local League of Women Voters planning meeting.
Are we sure this guy is a Jesuit? He’s wearing a Roman collar. Highly unusual for that crowd.
“Tokyo’s Sofia University”
Where they offer confession two hours a day almost 365 days a year, in contrast to the miserly hour a week in the Boise Diocese.
I met Fr. Mendizibal there, a wonderful priest of advanced age. Wish he was here.
Don’t recall running into this Fr. Nicolas.
“For them, its not about exchange but about teaching and imposing orthodoxy.”
He sees this as a *bad* thing?
I think we could use about a million times more.
When you read the heroic lives of the Jesuit missionaries, you simply cannot fathom how the order has fallen to what it is today.
I believe Cicero's above posted link is to a different Jesuit, Fr. Robert Kennedy, not Fr. Nicolas. Cicero, was there a particular reason why you posted a link to him when the discussion is on Fr. Nicolas?
What was it in the article that gives you this impression?
I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve been reading the Spanish press this morning and the liberals are ecstatic. They believe Fr. Nicolas is the spiritual heir of Arrupe and will “take on the Vatican.” He is apparently less abrasive in his manner, which is why he has been able to maintain a low profile for so long, but now Spanish commentators are saying he was considered the most “progressive” candidate the Jesuits could have chosen.
Judging from what he has written, he is a syncretist, one-world-religion type of guy, like many clergy in the Asian church, and of course socially left-wing, although without being into armed revolution like his Latin American “liberation theology” Jesuit peers. We shall see, but it certainly doesn’t look good right now.
The information I had wasn’t from the link on Kennedy, but from a different blog. I’ve also been reading the Spanish press and a couple of Spanish blogs that I follow, and this information is in those sources. Very depressing. I really hope he’s been misunderstood, but it doesn’t seem that way.
I don’t know what’s going to become of the Jesuits. It will be interesting to see how Rome reacts, because they have already had to discipline various Asian theologians(an Indian Jesuit, I believe) for syncretism.
Thanks for the clarification. That's a great endorsement for learning another language :-)
I dont know whats going to become of the Jesuits.
The problem of modernism is not unique to the Jesuits. It seems to be testing the endurance of many older religious orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans. We can only pray that our Lord will raise up a leader in their ranks to turn them around.
That was Coleus’s link, not mine. So I’m not sure what it was about.
Maybe that brings us back to square one, that this guy is said to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. Hopefully that’s because he was in the same province, and not because he’s on the same wavelength.
I think Japan is a tough place to be. The Jesuits have a long history there, but the Japanese have never taken to it, with rare exceptions. That’s OK as long as the Jesuits in question don’t give in to the prevailing culture they find in Japan.
I’m an admirer of the Samurai way, and there’s a lot of things I like about Japan, but they have a real problem with what you might call a deep absence of religion.
Would you mind posting a link to those Spanish blogs?
8 years of Jesuit education here.
i had a FR post about roshi kennedy and jim rob removed the thread 6 month’s later after someone complained by e mail to jim rob. i was never told the thread was deleted or what was said in the e mail, so, when i see a jesuit thread, the roshi is posted.
Catholic Zen Retreats, Jersey City, NJ, conducted by a Jesuit Priest
No problem, I think just a bit of confusion about it.
Jesuitical bumpus ad summum
My favorite is La Cigüeña de la Torre. This means The Stork in the Tower and refers to the fact that Spanish churches always have at least one resident stork in their bell-towers, hanging over the edge and watching everything that’s going on and making loud indignant noises about it.
He thinks that Nicolas will probably not take on the Pope overtly, but will simply continue the policies of Arrupe and his less agressive follower, Kolvenbach, which are those that have led to the slow decline of the order and will probably lead to its extinction.
It was probably fairly appropriate in this case. I’m not feeling very positive about Nicolas, who seems to be the usual “European gone native” syncretist. When you read what he says, you could be reading a Unitarian or any other non-Christian theist (who also, obviously, regards himself as God’s gift to Asia - these people are all wildly conceited).
OK< thanks, you answered my question. I had hopes.
Appears the Jesuits still need prayers.
My sentiments exactly!
My experiences with a Jesuit missionary where in Northern Ontario where Father Hawkins ministered to all and brought the Catholic Faith to many. Those that were not called to be priests and missionaries, put their Catholic Faith into action as just and moral citizens. Father Hawkins was not a social worker and I don’t believe that the Jesuits, or any priests should be either.
From what I have read of the early Church, social working was a problem that they had to turn over to committees. It got in the way of preaching the gospel.
I pray that the Jesuits get back to their primary work in the fashion of Ignatius.
In addition to the Father Generals 6 hopes may I add 2 more.
Stop promoting ways of thought that do not line up with Church teaching,
Stop being so damn communist
>> I hope Im wrong, but Ive been reading the Spanish press this morning and the liberals are ecstatic. They believe Fr. Nicolas is the spiritual heir of Arrupe and will take on the Vatican. <<
Than he is simply irrelevant. Which is sad. The only question is whether someone had been chosen who could rescue the Jesuits from the brink of extinction. In this case, there are almost no distinctions among bland, profoundly hostile, or anything less than heroic. No-one will care what a few thousand dying octogenarian limpwrists. And as much as I have known some wonderful Jesuits, that’s what their order will be typified by.
Sadly, that’s true. But I’ve been thinking about it, and actually I see this as much more dangerous to the Church as a whole, not just to the Jesuits. Fr Nicolas appears to be a full-blown syncretist, which is one of the things to which the Pope is most opposed. I think what he’s going to do, essentially, is use this position to set himself up as having a contrasting “vision” to that of the Pope. But he will do it in a careful way and try to avoid outright clashes.
The more I read about him, the less I like him. I hope I’m wrong and just being an alarmist.
>> I think what hes going to do, essentially, is use this position to set himself up as having a contrasting vision to that of the Pope.<<
95% of the American priesthood already spouts that “contrasting vision” 24/7.