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Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, former Jesuit leader, dead at 87

November 28, 2016

Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the former superior general of the Society of Jesus, died in Beirut on November 27, just short of his 88th birthday.

A native of the Netherlands, Father Kolvenbach spent much of his life in Lebanon, and was provincial for Jesuits serving in the Middle East. A professor of linguistics, he became rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. In 1983 he was elected the worldwide leader of the Society of Jesus, and he held that post until 2008. Father Kolvenbach is credited with stabilizing the Jesuit order after a tumultuous era in which his predecessor, Father Pedro Arrupe, had encouraged political and social involvement, provoking the concern of Pope John Paul II.

In 2006, Father Kolvenbach broke with Jesuit tradition by announcing his intention to retire in 2008; previous superior generals had served until they died or (as in the case of Father Arrupe) became incapacitated. After stepping down, he returned to Beirut to live in retirement.

Pope Francis—himself a Jesuit—praised Father Kolvenbach for “his generous commitment to exercising his office for the good of the Church with a spirit of service.”

 
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