Pope Francis has added his condolences to the Jesuits and their co-workers in Britain and beyond who have been paying tribute to Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ, the 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who died on Saturday. Elected at the 33rd General Congregation in 1983, Fr Kolvenbach had been a Jesuit for 68 years and served as General for almost a quarter of a century. He was 87 years old.
Born on 30 November 1928 in Druten in Holland, Fr Kolvenbach entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 19 and was missioned while still a scholastic (a Jesuit in formation) to Lebanon. "When in October 1958 we arrived by boat in the harbour of Beirut, Lebanon, fighting was going on," he later recalled. "The 18 different religious groups were trying to dominate one another, making political and military alliances with the help of neighbouring countries. Still, Lebanon wanted to maintain a message that diverse people can live, work and practice their beliefs with one another. The welcome of the Lebanese was unforgettable. Even as the division in the country grew worse, never was the hope abandoned that Lebanon might become a sign of communal harmony for the whole Near East."
Fr Kolvenbach was ordained to the priesthood in Beirut on 29 June 1961 and continued his studies in Lebanon, as well as at the Sorbonne in Paris and in the Netherlands. He worked as a professor of linguistics at L'Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut and as vice-provincial of the Jesuits' Near-East Vice-Province, a region that included Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, before being appointed as rector of the Oriental Institute in Rome. In 1983, Fr Kolvenbach was elected by the delegates of General Congregation 33 (GC33) to succeed Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ as the order's leader.
Source: Jesuits in Britain