29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus (1983-2008)
Jesuit Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, died in Beirut, Lebanon, on November 26. He was 87, just four days shy of his 88th birthday. He was a Jesuit for 68 years and a priest for 55, and he served as Superior General from 1983 to 2008.
Fr. Kolvenbach was born in Druten, Netherlands, in 1928. He lived most of his teen years during the German occupation of the Netherlands. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1948 and did his early Jesuit studies at a college in Nijmegen, Netherlands.
He was ordained to the priesthood in Beirut on June 29, 1961. He earned his doctorate in sacred theology from the Jesuit-run St. Joseph University in Beirut and studied linguistics at the Sorbonne and the University of the Hague.
Fr. Kolvenbach served as a both a professor of linguistics at St. Joseph University and as vice-provincial of the Jesuits’ Near East Vice-Province, which includes Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. In 1981 he was appointed as rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, a position he held until his election as Superior General in 1983.
As Superior General, Fr. Kolvenbach visited as many Jesuit provinces and individual Jesuits as he could. In 1995 he directed the Jesuits’ General Congregation 34, which addressed issues including the mission of the Society in the modern world.
In February 2006, Fr. Kolvenbach informed the members of the Society of Jesus of his intention, with the consent of Pope Benedict XVI, to step down. His resignation was accepted at General Congregation 35 in 2008.
Upon retirement Fr. Kolvenbach returned to Beirut, making his home in a Jesuit community in the city. [Sources: Ignatian Spirituality, Crux, America]