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Father Adolfo Nicolás: A Jesuit of spiritual depth and universality

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ, shares his memories of his predecessor, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas SJ, 84, who died on 20 May in Tokyo, Japan.

By Vatican News

“He will be greatly mourned throughout the Society as a wise, humble and dedicated Jesuit, a man of grace and wisdom, simple, unpretentious.” These are the words Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, used to describe Fr. Adolfo Nicolás.

Father Nicolas, affectionately called “Adolfo” by many – and “Nico” by the Jesuits of Asia Pacific – is remembered by many for his sense of humor, courage and humility. As Superior General, he always insisted on spiritual depth and the universality of the Society of Jesus.

He was elected the thirtieth Superior General of the Society of Jesus on 19 January 2008. He made countless contributions not only to the development of the Society, but also to the progress of Consecrated Life in general, and of the Church. Fr Nicolás also served in various apostolic areas: as professor of theology, rector of Jesuit scholastics and provincial among others.

In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Giancarlo La Vella, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ shares his recollections of the life and personality of Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, his predecessor.

Interview with Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ

A serene Jesuit

Fr. Sosa recalls that Fr. Nicolás was the Secretary-General of the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus held in 1995. In those meetings with Jesuits from multiple countries in attendance, he remarks that Fr. Nicolás’s serenity and way of coordinating the proceedings of the Congregation had “a great impact” in his life.

When asked about what he inherited from his predecessor, Fr. Sosa lists five points.

The Jesuit charism 

The first, notes Fr. Sosa, is the “confirmation of the charism of the Society of Jesus.” Fr. Nicolás’s way of living is a pointer to the “authenticity of being Jesuit in our world.”

Jesuits as missionaries

Fr. Sosa’s second point reiterates the Jesuit missionary character often emphasized by Fr. Nicolás. “The Society of Jesus is known for mission, for being outside, for going to the frontiers,” he says. 

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás SJ and Pope Francis
Fr. Adolfo Nicolás SJ and Pope Francis

Inculturated universality

Fr. Nicolás spent many years of his life working in Japan and in the Philippines. This experience gave him a multicultural perspective that he often brought to bear in the larger framework of the universal nature of the Society of Jesus. 

For the third point, Fr. Sosa notes that in the face of the continuous challenge of creating an intercultural congregation of religious men, “Fr. Nicolás helped us to be more inculturated.”


One of the letters Fr. Nicolás wrote to the Society of Jesus was entitled “from distraction to dedication.” In it, Fr. Nicolás enjoined Jesuits to avoid superficiality and go deeper into true spiritual and academic depth. 

As the fourth point, Fr. Sosa joins his voice to Fr. Nicolás’s call, saying that the Society of Jesus has to have “apostolic audacity in this moment of the history of the world.”

Consultation in government

Finally, Fr. Sosa recalls that Fr. Nicolás’ style of government was enriched by frequent consultation with others which led to discerned decision-making. “Fr. Nicolás was a man of decisions but the decisions were the fruit of a process of discernment,” he says.

In conclusion, Fr. Sosa says he received this inheritance “with great pleasure” but also as a big challenge.

The funeral Mass for Fr. Adolfo Nicolas was held on 23 May at 5:00pm in Tokyo, Japan.

23 May 2020, 10:21