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Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (November 14, 1907 – February 5, 1991) (full name, Pedro de Arrupe y Gondra) was the twenty-eighth Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was born in Bilbao, Spain.
Pedro Arrupe was the youngest of five children. Both his mother and his father died before he completed his nineteenth birthday. His mother died when he was ten years old and his father died when he was eighteen.
Education and Training
Pedro Arrupe attended school at the Colegio Apóstol Santiago in Bilbao and completed high school at the age of fifteen. Later he would move to Madrid to attend the Medical School of the Universidad Complutense. There he met Severo Ochoa, who would win the Nobel Prize for Medicine. One of his teachers was Juan Negrin, a pioneer in physiology, who would become Prime Minister of the Spanish Republic during the Civil war.
Life as an Early Jesuit
The year after his father died he and his sisters traveled to Lourdes, where he witnessed a miraculous healing. He credits this experience as an important impetus to enter the Society of Jesus. Against the wishes of his teachers, he gave up a life of medicine and entered the Jesuits on January 15, 1927 at the age of nineteen.
In 1932 Arrupe was forced to leave Spain when the Society of Jesus was expelled from the country. Although he visited many times, he never returned to his home country to live again. He was ordained at St. Mary’s Seminary in Kansas in 1936.
Before he was sent to Japan in 1938, he studied in Holland, Belgium, and the United States.
Japan - Hiroshima
Fr. Arrupe was working as a missionary in Japan when war broke out with the United States and the Allies. While the Attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7th in Hawaii, in Japan it was already December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Arrupe was saying mass when he was arrested and imprisoned on the suspicion of espionage. During his imprisonment he was placed in solitary confinement for thirty-three days, a period which he later referred to as a time of “great suffering.” His attitude of profound prayer (he would later describe it as one of his most transforming spiritual periods), his lack of offensive behavior gained him the respect of his jailers and judges, and was set free in a month.
He was appointed Jesuit superior and the master of novices in Japan in 1942. He was living in Nagatsuka, a suburb of Hiroshima, when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. As a trained doctor he headed the first rescue party to arrive in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. He described that event as "a permanent experience outside of history, engraved on my memory." He utilized his medical skills in the service of the wounded and the dying, transforming the novitiate into a make-shift hospital for over 150 patients suffering the effects of radiation poisoning. Under the care of Pedro Arrupe and the novices that worked as nurses, only one patient died in their hospital.
In 1954 he was appointed the superior and later the first Jesuit provincial for Japan (1958-65).
Upon the death of Jean-Baptiste Janssens, S.J., the Superior General of the Society that preceded him, Pedro Arrupe traveled to Rome as a delegate to the Thirty-first General Congregation. At the thirty-first General Congregation (GC XXXI) of the Society of Jesus in 1965, he was elected the order's twenty-eighth Father General. He served in that position from 1965 to 1983. Father Vinnie O'Keefe, who was a great friend of Arrupe's as well as one of his top advisers, says Arrupe was "a second Ignatius, a refounder of the Society in the light of Vatican II." The defining moment of Fr. Arrupe's leadership of the Jesuits was probably the thirty-second General Congregation (GC XXXII), which he called in 1975.
Arrupe's dream was crystallized in the document (decree 4), Our Mission Today: the Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice. Of GC XXXII. This decree basically defined all the Jesuits work as having an essential focus on the promotion of Justice as well as the Catholic Faith. The mix of religion and politics has always been controversial, so for the Jesuits to tie their work so explicitly to the promotion of Justice was a very bold statement. This decree was so hotly debated that it was not voted on, until the very last day of the congregation, March 7 1975. when it was accepted by an overwhelming majority of delegates. This focus on justice was to cause great conflict within the order, the church and also have remarkable consequences on the outside world. To understand this we must look at the context of the Reforms of Vatican II and how they were applied to South and Central America.
After the great changes following Vatican II each bishops conference returned back to their own churches and implemented the decrees in their own particular context. The Church in Europe was threatened by a growing secularism and a scientific and materialistic atheism. The Church in Asia was conscious of its responsibilities to inter-religious dialog and the tensions produced by the plurality of religions in their societies. The Church in South America was predominantly faced with the poverty that many considered to be caused by the perceived injustice of tiny minorities of the population owning and controlling vast amounts of the countries wealth and resources. Controversially the theologians in South America became more and more politically involved, often adopting Marxist positions. Many Jesuits in South and Central America, aware that the Church had in the past appeared to accept this inequality, were at the forefront of this movement. The theology that grew out of their work was called Liberation Theology.
In its most extreme manifestations, liberation theology went so far as to subordinate the Gospel to political revolution, making the former only a means to achieve the latter. This fundamental confusion between hope for equality in the present world and hope for the coming of the Kingdom led to the condemnation of Liberation Theology by Joseph Ratzinger in the 1980s in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; this correction was restated in his 2008 encyclical Spe Salvi.
Despite these serious difficulties, the Jesuits' work in South America was marked with great success as well. Arrupe had special relationship with these Jesuits, who were involved in Latin American proposals that eventually produced his beloved decree four from GC 32. On June 20 1977 the White Warriors Union death squad threatened to kill each of the 47 Jesuits in El Salvador unless they abandoned their work with the poor, and left the country within a month. After consulting with his men, Fr. Arrupe replied, "They may end up as martyrs, but my priests are not going to leave (El Salvador), because they are with the people." Six Jesuits were subsequently murdered on November 16 1989 at the Jesuit University of Central America as well as other Jesuits such as Rutilio Grande, and later also the Archbishop Oscar Romero.
General Congregation of the Jesuits in the Early 1970's
At General Congregation of the Jesuits in the 1970’s Arrupe posed the question to the entire Society of Jesus: What is it to be a Jesuit? The response to the question is important for the renewal and recommitment of the Society to the goals of its founders: "It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin to “Place him with her Son,” and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying his Cross, to take this pilgrim into his company.”
Theology of Suffering
Although not a professional theologian, Pedro Arrupe, S.J. is credited with being the “second founder of the Jesuits.” His influence on the theology of the Jesuits and the Church was more indirect, as was Ignatius of Loyola's and Francis of Assisi's, and reflected a “theologically dense” life whose practice help to bring in a new theological culture within the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church on the whole.
This theology is characterized by a sensitivity to suffering and is motivated by a “faith that does justice.” It is a theology that addresses the faith within the current culture and historical contexts.
Other Accomplishments and Legacies
Succeeded in moving Alma College, the original Jesuit theologate in California to the Berkeley and making the school recognized internationally. The school is now known as the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
From 1967 to 1982, he served as the president of the Union of Religious Superior Generals.
On July 31, 1973 he addressed the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni in Europe in Spain. In this address he coined the phrase “Men for Others,” a phrase that would become the motto for many Jesuit high schools and universities throughout the world.
Founded Jesuit Refugee Services.
Later Life, Illness and Stroke
On August 7 1981, after a long and tiring trip throughout the Far East, Father Arrupe suffered a stroke just after his airplane had landed at Rome's Fiumicino Airport. He was paralyzed on his right side and was able to speak only a few words, but this ability gradually deteriorated until he was completely mute. From that time on he lived in the infirmary at the Curia. His only form of communication with the Jesuit brother who was his constant companion, was with his eyes or hand pressure. After his stroke, Pope John Paul II appointed Fr. Pablo Dezza, S.J. to lead the society until the convocation of the Thirty-third General Congregation. Arrupe resigned due to ill health in 1983 and was the first, and with the exception of Peter Hans Kolvenbach, only Jesuit superior general to resign instead of remaining in office until his death.
The thirty third General Congregation was called to deal with the resignation of Arrupe and the election of a successor. The Congregation was called by Father- later Cardinal- Paolo Dezza, the Pontifical Delegate, especially appointed by the Pope to assure that the Society be kept on course. There was a wave of resentment from some Jesuits at what was seemingly Papal interference in Jesuit affairs. Arrupe's resignation was accepted on September 3 1983 during the Congregation and it proceeded to elect Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach as General.
During the opening Session of the Congregation Fr Arrupe was wheeled into the hall, and a prayer which he had written was read out.
- More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God's hands.
During his ten long and silent years in the infirmary, praying for the Society, Arrupe received many and frequent well wishers among whom the Pope was the most distinguished.
Arrupe died at the Curia on February 5 1991 in his 84th year. His Generalate actually lasted for 18 years from his election until his resignation in 1983, though he lived another eight years of complete inactivity paralyzed and with little communication.
Pedro Arrupe's funeral was held in the Church of the Gesu and was attended by crowds inside and in the piazza outside the church. Also in attendance were 10 cardinals, 20 bishops, the Prime Minister of Italy and other religious and civil dignitaries. His body, first interred in the Jesuit Mausoleum at Campo Verano, was brought back into the Church of the Gesu where it lays in a side chapel.
Several halls, Jesuit communities and other 'memorials' have been named after him. Among them: a new state-of-the-art building in the Jesuit high school in Fairfield, Connecticut. The building was opened on September 1 2005. The main auditorium at the ITESO, a Jesuit university in Guadalajara, is also named after Pedro Arrupe. Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado is also named after Pedro Arrupe, as well as several scholarships given in his honor. Boston College High School, the Jesuit high school of Boston, named their new middle school in 2007 the "Arrupe Division" in honor of Pedro Arrupe.
While not known concretely whether or not Pedro Arrupe penned this prayer, it is often attributed to him and has gained much popularity.
"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."
Resources and Links
- "Mysticism of Open Eyes" at JSTB
- Georgetown University reflection on legacy of Father Arrupe
- Jesuits in Ireland page on Centenary of Father Arrupe
- Boston College reflection on Father Arrupe's legacy
- Reflection at Loyola University Chicago
|Superior General of the Society of Jesus|
1965 – 1983
| Succeeded by|
Peter Hans Kolvenbach