Jesuits from around the world begin their consultations at the 36th General Congregation which will select a successor to the current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Adolfo Nicolás.
Irish provincial Tom Layden SJ and the director of the Jesuit Centre
for Faith and Justice, John Guiney SJ, are the delegates attending from
The process gets underway on Sunday with an opening Mass at 5pm at the Church of the Gesù in Rome.
The man chosen will be the 30th general superior since the
society’s foundation in September 1540 by St Ignatius of Loyola. The
theme of the deliberations is ‘rowing into the deep’.
A general congregation is summoned on the death or resignation of the
head of the Society of Jesus to choose his successor, or when the
General decides action is needed on serious matters that he cannot or
does not want to decide on alone.
In December 2014, Fr Adolfo Nicolás announced his intention to resign.
The logo and theme for GC36 was inspired by Pope Francis’ message to
the Jesuits on the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society
On 27 September 2014 in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, the Pope
urged Jesuits to discern in difficult times; to be receptive of and
obedient to the will of God; and to row with him in the service of the
church according to the call of Jesus to his disciples to “put out into
On the GC36 logo, the IHS represents the Society’s boat in the
church, and the waves represent the sea where Jesuits are invited to
enter and row out into, toward frontiers.
The cross represents the sail where the Spirit blows, helping the
The flame above the cross represents “a fire that kindles
other fires,” a link to Decree 2 from GC 35 on rediscovering the Jesuit
The first general congregation took place in 1558. It had been
delayed for two years after St Ignatius’ death because a war between
King Philip II of Spain and Pope Paul IV. Fr Diego Laynez, SJ, was
elected Superior General.
Some congregations last for months — and one, GC 31 in 1965-66, met
for several months, broke for more than a year, and then resumed for two
When it is in session, a general congregation is the supreme
governing body of the Society of Jesus, outranking even the Jesuit
For an in-depth analysis of how a general congregation works you can
watch this video interview with Pat Coyle and Jesuit theologian Jim
Corkery, who lectures in the Gregorian University in Rome, and was a
participant in GC35.