Pedro Arrupe

Pedro Arrupe

General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), twenty-eighth in succession
Date of Birth: 14.11.1907
Country: Italy

Biography of Pedro Arrupe

Pedro Arrupe, the twenty-eighth Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), was born in the city of Bilbao and was of Basque nationality. He received his education in his hometown before attending the medical faculty at the University of Madrid. In 1927, Arrupe joined the Society of Jesus and continued his studies in Belgium and the Netherlands after the Republican government expelled the Jesuits from Spain in 1932.

Arrupe was ordained as a priest in 1936 and subsequently pursued a doctoral degree in medical ethics in the United States. In 1939, he was sent by the order to do missionary work in Japan, where he served throughout the Second World War. During the war, Arrupe was imprisoned on suspicion of espionage by the Japanese authorities but was eventually released.

In 1942, he became a novice master, and together with seven other Jesuits, he resided in a suburb of Hiroshima. When the city was bombed with an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, Arrupe and his companions were in the Jesuit residence, and miraculously, they all survived. Arrupe converted the Jesuit novitiate building into a temporary hospital after the explosion, providing medical assistance to more than two hundred injured individuals using his medical skills.

In 1952, Arrupe published a book titled "I Survived the Atomic Bomb" and translated the works of Ignatius of Loyola into the Japanese language. He was appointed as the head of the Jesuit province in Japan in 1958. Following the death of the Superior General Jean-Baptiste Janssens, Arrupe was elected as the twenty-eighth Superior General of the Jesuits by the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1965. Arrupe became the second Basque person to lead the order after its founder, Ignatius of Loyola.

During his tenure as the Superior General, Arrupe advocated for the reform of the Jesuit order in accordance with the demands of the time and the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. The Jesuits intensified their work in Latin America in the social sphere and in providing assistance to the marginalized. However, disputes arose within the order due to the theology of liberation, a theory of Christian socialism that gained significant support among many Jesuits in Latin America during the 1970s. Arrupe himself had sympathies towards liberation theology. Ultimately, the Catholic Church rejected liberation theology, and its persistent proponents faced persecution.

In 1981, after an exhausting trip to the Far East, Arrupe suffered a severe stroke, which left him paralyzed and unable to speak. He resigned from his position, becoming the first Superior General in the history of the Society of Jesus to step down before death. Pope John Paul II appointed Father Paolo Dezza as the temporary head of the Jesuits, leading to protests within the order against the interference in internal affairs. In 1983, the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus was convened, and Arrupe's resignation was accepted, with Peter-Hans Kolvenbach elected as the new Superior General. Arrupe attended the Congregation in a wheelchair, and his written address was read to the participants.

Arrupe spent the rest of his life in a Jesuit hospital in Rome and passed away on February 5, 1991. He was buried in a side chapel of the Church of the Gesu.