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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 (1965-83) of the Society of Jesus. He was born in Bilbao, Spain.


Education and training

Pedro Arrupe attended school at the Santiago Apostol College in Bilbao. Later he moved to Madrid to attend the Medical School of the Universidad Complutense. There he met Severo Ochoa, who later won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. One of his teachers was Juan Negrín, a pioneer in physiology, who would become Prime Minister of the Spanish Republic during the Civil War.

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 7 in Hawaii, in Japan it was already December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Arrupe was saying Mass when he was arrested and imprisoned for a time. His attitude of profound prayer (he would later describe it as one of his most transforming spiritual periods), and his lack of offensive behaviour gained him the respect of his jailors and judges, and he was set free in a month. He was appointed Jesuit superior and the master of novices in Japan in 1942. He was living in suburban Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell in August 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 200 grievously scarred persons. He eventually was appointed the first Jesuit provincial for Japan (1958-65).

Father General

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. Fr. Vinnie O'Keefe, a friend and advisor to Arrupe, 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 crystallised 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. For the Jesuits to tie their work so explicitly to the promotion of justice was a very bold move, and some felt it overly politicised the Society. 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 led to the development of liberation theology in South America, which caused great conflict within the Society and the Church.

Liberation Theology

After the great changes following Vatican II, theologians in South America became increasingly political, often adopting Marxist positions. Many Jesuits in South and Central America, aware that the Church had in the past appeared to accept and even to defend inequality in South America, 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 seemed to some theologians to subordinate the Gospel to political revolution, making the former simply a means to achieve the latter. The perception that there was a 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 criticisms, the Jesuits in South America undoubtedly made great sacrifices for their beliefs. Arrupe had a special relationship with these Jesuits, who were involved in the proposals that eventually produced his beloved Decree 4 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 the Jesuit El Salvador community, 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 non-Jesuits such as Archbishop Óscar Romero.

Later life, illness and stroke

On August 7, 1981, after a long and tiring trip throughout the Far East, Fr. Arrupe suffered a stroke just after his airplane landed at Rome's Fiumicino Airport. He was paralysed on his right side and was able to speak only a few words. This ability gradually deteriorated until he was completely mute. From that time on he lived in the infirmary at the Curia. He was the first 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 Fr. 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 seen as Papal interference in Jesuit affairs. Arrupe's resignation was accepted on September 3, 1983 during the Congregation and it proceeded to elect Fr. 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 funeral was held in the Church of the Gesu and was attended by crowds that spilled out onto 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 lies in a side chapel.


Numerous buildings, schools, Jesuit communities and so forth have been named after Pedro Arrupe. Among them include:

- A building in the Jesuit high school in Fairfield, Connecticut, opened on September 1, 2005.

- The main auditorium at the ITESO, a Jesuit university in Guadalajara, Mexico.

- Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado.

- The middle school of Boston College High School, the Jesuit high school of Boston, was named the "Arrupe Division" in 2007.

- The Jesuit Formation College in Zimbabwe is also known as Arrupe College.

Preceded by
Jean-Baptiste Janssens
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Succeeded by
Peter Hans Kolvenbach


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Pedro Arrupe (November 14, 1907 – February 5, 1991) was the twenty-eighth Father General (1965–83) of the Society of Jesus.


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