This significant election takes place on January 5. Is the only fight left in the Jesuits to oppose the will of the Pope, or will they also take notice of the changed ecclesiastical realities?
A report from the well-informed and altogether excellent kreuz.net – Wer wird der neue General der Jesuiten?
When the last Jesuit General was elected, John Paul II found himself in a helicopter above Austria. The papal reaction after announcement of the election results is still relevant today.
The current general of the Jesuits, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach (79), is on the point of resigning his office.
On the 5th January, the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will meet in Rome in order to choose his successor, and make other important decisions.
Father Kolvenbach - a Dutchman with Italian mother – has been since 13 September 1983 in his office. Previously, he had spent many years of his life as a professor in Lebanon.
His resignation is considered exceptional. Basically, the General of the Jesuits is elected for life.
But after one of the longest periods of office in the history of the Jesuit order, the current general appears to be tired by the office.
His predecessor was the controversial Father Pedro Arrupe. When in 1981, he suffered a stroke and resigned, the election as successor of a died in the wool liberal was threatened.
Thus Pope John Paul II stopped the election of a new general and continued instead to an acting leadership under the two Italian Jesuits, Father Paolo Dezza and Father Giuseppe Pittau.
The election of Father Kolvenbach adjusted this irregular situation.
The Jesuits have been in an unprecedented crisis since the Second Vatican Council.
In 1965, there were 36,000 Jesuits - many of youthful age. Today, the preponderantly elderly order has just over 20,000 members.
In view of the General Congregation, a preparatory commission addressed a series of working issues.
It can be considered a sort of governmental program for the future General.
Topics are mission, the Jesuit identity, the different leadership levels of the Society of Jesus, obedience and community life.
The 225 delegates - five of which are Jesuit brothers –will also discuss church renewal, youth, refugees, laity and the priestly training.
For the election of the new general, there is no official list of candidates.
As a possible successor, the Italian news agency 'Apcom' suggested the Provincial of the Australian Jesuits, Father Mark Raper (left)
Another candidate is Father Orlando Torres, the General Council of the Jesuits responsible for formation, or the ex-provincial of Colombia and Argentina, Father Alvaro Restrepo.
Even the head of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, is apparently under discussion.
But the race seems to be quite open. The election of Father Kolvenbach surprised many at the time.
At the moment of the counting of votes Pope John Paul II was in a helicopter above Austria.
The Jesuit Curia could reach the Holy Father, finally, by radio. The Pope responded by surprise.
He had never heard before of the name of the newly elected general.