Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)
February 5, 2016 — Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991), who served as the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983. A man of great spiritual depth who was committed to justice, Fr. Arrupe led the Society of Jesus in the post-Vatican II era.
Fr. Arrupe was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1907. After some years of medical training, he entered the Jesuits in 1927. In 1932, the Jesuits were expelled from Spain, and Fr. Arrupe continued his studies in Belgium, Holland and the United States. After being ordained, Fr. Arrupe was sent to Japan in 1938.
In 1945, Fr. Arrupe was serving as the master of novices for the Japanese mission in Nagatsuka, on the outskirts of Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945, he heard the sirens wail as a single American B-29 bomber flew over the city. After the atomic bomb was dropped, Fr. Arrupe and members of his community went outside and saw the first of the casualties of the explosion. Fr. Arrupe used his medical training to help, and he and his fellow Jesuits were able to give aid to 150 victims.
Fr. Arrupe, soon after arriving in Japan.
While serving as the superior of the Jesuits’ Japanese Province, he was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus in 1965. As the 28th Superior General, it was his task to guide the Society through the changes following Vatican II.
Fr. Arrupe was most concerned that the Jesuits make a commitment to addressing the needs of the poor. His work resulted in the decree from the 32nd General Congregation, “Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice.”
Image courtesty of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
Fr. Arrupe was also moved by the plight of the Vietnamese “boat people,” refugees who were fleeing Vietnam on rickety boats and rafts in the late 1970s. He called for a worldwide humanitarian response by the Jesuit order and its lay partners, which resulted in the founding of Jesuit Refugee Service in November 1980.
In 1981 Fr. Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke, and an interim superior was appointed by Pope John Paul II, who served until 1983 when Fr. Arrupe resigned. He was wheeled in to the opening session of the Jesuits’ 33rd General Congregation, where his prayer was read to the community:
“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. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.”
Fr. Arrupe died Feb. 5, 1991. [Source: Ignatianspirituality.com]