Replacement for Nicholas would leave 3 living Superior Generals,
with Kolvenbach, who retired in 2008, still alive
Jesuit superior sets date for 2016 congregation to elect his successor
Last May, Father Adolfo Nicolas, the current Jesuit superior, announced his intention to resign in late 2016 after he turns 80.
Announcing the exact date for the meeting, Father Nicolas said, "It is providential that we, as a society, are beginning this journey" toward the congregation and election at the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life.
In his letter for the year, Father Nicolas said Dec. 9, "Pope Francis expresses his hopes that religious such as ourselves might rediscover the joy of consecrated life, recover our prophetic witness that 'wakes up the world,' truly become 'experts in communion,' and go 'out of ourselves to the existential peripheries.'"
The pope, he said, "asks that all religious discern 'what it is that God and people today are asking of them.' This is precisely the kind of deep discernment we as a society are called to make."
The heads of Jesuit provinces around the world and other superiors will schedule and prepare provincial congregation meetings, which must be held before July 31, 2015, Father Nicolas said in a letter to the almost 17,000 Jesuits in the world.
Each provincial congregation of the Society of Jesus will be asked to forward to the order's Rome headquarters their response to the question: "What do we discern to be the three most important calls that the Lord makes to the whole society today?"
He urged all of the men to enter into a process of "profound and genuine spiritual discernment" about the life and mission of the Jesuits in the church and in the world today, keeping in mind Pope Francis' calls for the renewal of the entire church.
Last May, Father Nicolas told his Jesuit brothers, "I have reached the personal conviction that I should take the needed steps toward submitting my resignation to a general congregation," an idea he said he already discussed with Pope Francis, with officials at the Jesuit headquarters and with the Jesuit provincials.
Like the pope, the superior general of the Jesuits is elected for life, although the Jesuit constitutions include provisions for the superior general to resign. In 2008, Father Nicolas succeeded Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who resigned at age 79.