Pedro Arrupe’s cause for canonisation underway

The Society of Jesus has taken the first steps towards the beatification cause of Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ, who was Superior General from 1965 to 1983.

Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ announced this at the International Association of Jesuit Universities meeting in Bilbao, Spain when he addressed the 300 Jesuit and lay participants. “We are still at the beginning of the process, but the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Angelo de Donatis, has given the approval that the Diocese of Rome open the process of beatification”.

Fr Sosa described Fr Arrupe as “a man of truth rooted in Christ and dedicated to the mission, whose greatest miracle is that we are here today”. He asked for prayers for Fr Arrupe’s cause and the collaboration of anyone with useful information about religious devotion to the former Superior General.

In 2013, after the Ignatius Feast Day Mass with the Jesuits in the Church of the Gesù, Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of Fr Pedro Arrupe, laying a bouquet of flowers on the pavement and touching the gravestone and image in what then Fr General Adolfo Nicolás described as “an intense moment of deep prayer and gratitude”.

This massive task of compiling a list of 120 witnesses, especially those who personally knew Fr Arrupe, should “be finished in about a year,” Fr Pascual Cebollada SJ, General Postulator of the Society of Jesus, told Catholic News Service on July 13.
Fr Cebollada, who is responsible for overseeing the sainthood causes of Jesuits, will also collect all of Fr Arrupe’s writings. Once he has the list of potential witnesses and all the writings, the formal opening of Fr Arrupe’s sainthood cause will be opened by the Diocese of Rome, which is the diocese where Fr Arrupe died.

“I can tell you that these witnesses will be from various places: from Spain where he was born; Japan where he was first sent by his superiors; and from Rome where he lived the last years of his life,” Fr Cebollada said.

Pope Francis stops at the tomb of Fr Pedro Arrupe

Fr Arrupe was the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Born in Spain in 1907, he entered the Society in 1927 and was ordained in 1936. He then went to Japan as a missionary in 1938. He was master of novices at the Jesuit novitiate in Hiroshima in 1945 when the United States dropped the atomic bomb, almost entirely destroying the city. Fr Arrupe had studied medicine before joining the Society and he repurposed the novitiate into a makeshift hospital. His life and world view were profoundly affected by the experience.

In 1958, Fr Arrupe was appointed Provincial of the Japanese Province, then in 1965, General Congregation 31 elected him Superior General. French Jesuit Maurice Giuliani exhorted the electors with these words: “We need a General with vision for the universal good in the world and able to cooperate in the redemption of that world”. Fr Arrupe matched that profile.

While he was Superior General, Fr Arrupe encouraged his brothers and collaborators in ministry to heed the call of the Second Vatican Council to return to the Society’s roots and to follow the “preferential option for the poor”. General Congregation 32 Decree 4 (1974 to 1975) defined the Society’s mission today as “the service of faith and the promotion of justice”.

One of his most famous initiatives was the founding of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in 1980 to meet the humanitarian and educational needs of the Vietnamese boat people. He wrote, “The help needed is not only material: in a special way the Society of Jesus is being called to render a service that is human, pedagogical and spiritual”. JRS Asia Pacific was set up the following year.

Pedro Arrupe SJ and Michael Campbell-Johnson SJ

Fr Arrupe suffered a cerebral stroke on August 7, 1981 on a flight from Bangkok to Rome. He resigned as Superior General in 1983 as his ability to speak degenerated. He died on February 5, 1991 aged 83. Fr Cebollada told CNS that Pope Francis and countless other Jesuits continue to be inspired by Fr Arrupe’s life and spirituality.

JCAP President Fr Tony Moreno was a pre-novice when he met Fr Arrupe in 1981 at a Philippine Province Eucharistic celebration of the Feast of St Ignatius. He still remembers the impact of meeting Fr Arrupe and welcomes the decision to promote his sainthood cause. “At General Congregation 36, Pope Francis exhorted the Jesuits to have prophetic audacity to accomplish the mission of God. That describes Fr Arrupe’s leadership. As Superior General, he had the prophetic audacity to implement the reforms set out by Vatican II despite opposition from authorities and influential personalities. His emphasis on a faith that does justice continues to guide us as we serve the universal mission in Asia Pacific.”

'Men for Others', Fr Arrupe's 1973 address to Jesuit educators and students, has become a central guiding document for Jesuit education. Another famous speech of his was 'Hands of God' where Fr Arrupe wrote: “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."

This article was first published on the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference website.

Read the edit for Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Pedro Arrupe Gondra SJ

Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ, who worked closely with Fr Arrupe, offered a personal reflection on ‘the founder of the modern Society' on Thinking Faith.

Listen to this reflection on the life of Pedro Arrupe, produced by Pray As You Go in 2014 as part of a programme commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus:

Fr Mark Raper SJ had been charged by Fr Arrupe to set up JRS Asia Pacific. In 2104, when he was JCAP President, Fr Mark wrote a message remembering Fr Arrupe on his death anniversary. Read it here.