By Robin Gomes
The Diocese of Rome has opened the process of the beatification and canonization of Father Pedro Arrupe, the 28th superior general of the Society of Jesus (SJ) or the Jesuits.
“We have seriously begun the process for the beatification of Fr Pedro Arrupe,” current Jesuit Superior General, Father Arturo Sosa announced at the meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Universities in Bilbao, Spain, on July 11.
Fr. Arturo Sosa said that Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome has given the approval to open the process of Fr. Arrupe’s beatification. The Jesuit general asked the attendees to pray for the cause and for the assistance of anyone who has useful information about the religious devotion to Fr. Arrupe.
18 years at the helm
Born on November 14, 1907, in Bilbao, Spain, Fr. Arrupe died on February 5, 1991, in Rome, Italy. He led the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983 bringing about a profound renewal in the congregation in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
He also served three consecutive terms as president of the Union of Religious Superiors General, from 1967-1982.
The rules for beatification and canonization prescribe that the bishop of the diocese where the individual lived has to petition the Holy See to allow the process or the cause to begin. If there is no objection by the Roman dicasteries, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the permission is communicated to the initiating Bishop.
The process of documenting the life and virtues of a candidate cannot normally begin until 5 years after death to ensure the person has an enduring reputation for sanctity among the faithful.
Fr. Sosa described Fr. Arrupe as "a man of truth, rooted in Christ and dedicated to the mission, whose greatest miracle is the fact that we are here today". He was a "figure of great importance", "a person who has lived holiness in a profound and original way throughout his life: as a young man, as a Jesuit, as a novice master, as a provincial and as a general". Fr. Sosa explained that the opening of the cause of beatification takes into account not only Fr. Arrupe’s leadership of the Society of Jesus but his whole person, who has been able to identify himself with the Lord throughout his life.
Fr. Arrupe entered the Society of Jesus in 1927 after studying medicine. With the banning of Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went to study in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States as part of his Jesuit formation.
Ordained a priest in 1936 he obtained a degree in medical ethics before being sent to Japan in 1938 to work as a missionary. He later was appointed the master of novices for the Jesuit novitiate in Japan and was living in Hiroshima when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945.
With his medical background, the young priest converted the novitiate into a makeshift hospital for the wounded. A decade later, in 1958, he was named the first provincial for Japan, overseeing the Jesuit apostolate in the country.
Fr. Arrupe was elected Jesuit Superior General in 1965, just six months before the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Under his leadership, the Jesuit apostolate shifted its focus to more of social justice issues.
However, his changes were met with opposition not only by many fellow Jesuits but also popes and other Vatican and ecclesial figures.
It was Fr. Arrupe who appointed Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope, the Jesuit provincial of Argentina in 1973, and both remained close. They together visited the Diocese of La Rioja to support Bishop Enrique Ángel Angelelli Carletti, who was assassinated in 1976 during Argentina's Dirty War.
A tangible legacy of the new thrust that Fr. Arrupe gave the Society of Jesus is the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) which he founded in November 1980 in reaction to the tragedy of the Vietnamese boat refugees. Today, JRS run programmes in 51 countries.
Following a stroke on August 7, 1981, Fr. Arrupe’s ability to move and speak began diminishing, which forced him to step down as superior general. He died 10 years later at the age of 83 and is buried at the Church of Gesù in Rome.
Late Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was elected his successor as the new superior general in September 1983.