After the death of Jesuit Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, former head of the order, over the weekend, Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Society praising the priest’s fidelity and offering prayers for the repose of his soul.
“Learning of the news of the holy death of Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, I wish to express to you and to the entire Jesuit family my most sincere condolences,” the Pope said in a Nov. 28 letter.
Addressed to the current head of the Society, Fr. Arturo Sosa, the letter recalled the “integral fidelity” with which Fr. Kolvenbach served Christ and the Gospel, as well as his “generous commitment to exercising his ministry for the good of the Church.”
Francis offered his prayers for Fr. Kolvenbach, asking, through Divine Mercy, for “eternal peace for his soul.”
“Spiritually present in the rite of funerals, I cordially impart to you, to your brother (Jesuits) and to the many sharing in the sadness of this loss, my apostolic blessing.”
Fr. Kolvenbach, who died Nov. 26 just days before his 88th birthday, was a Dutch priest of the Armenian Catholic Church who served as the Society of Jesus’ Superior General from 1983-2008, when he resigned due to poor health.
Born in Druten, Netherlands, Nov. 30, 1928, Fr. Kolvenbach entered the Society of Jesus at age 20 in 1948.
After finishing his studies in philosophy he transferred to Lebanon, where he graduated in theology and was ordained a priest of the Armenian Catholic Church in 1961.
He then taught in several different universities around the world – including in Lebanon, Paris, and The Hague – before being named Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Prior to his appointment as rector, he had been Vice Provincial of the Middle East.
At the 33rd General Congregation of the Jesuits in 1983, he was elected General Superior after the resignation of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, who had suffered a stroke two years earlier. Fr. Kolvenbach became the 29th Superior General of the Jesuits, and the first from an Eastern rite.
His resignation was accepted and formalized during the 2008 General Congregation, when Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon was elected as his replacement.
After stepping down Fr. Kolvenbach returned to Lebanon, where he spent the remainder of his ministry and where he died over the weekend.