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By Maria Joseph Israel SJ
Jul 18th, 2018

Fr. General Arturo Sosa S.J. announced the opening of the formal process of beatification of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. at the meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Universities held at Bilbao, Spain, the birth place of Pedro Arrupe.  He was the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, known for his spiritual depth and commitment to social justice with a focus on “a preferential option for the poor”.

Fr. Sosa further added, “we are still at the beginning of the process, but Angelo de Donatis, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome has given the diocese of Rome approval to open the process of beatification”.  Fr. Pascual Cebollada, S.J., General Postulator of the Society of Jesus, is tasked with compiling a list of witnesses and Arrupe’s writings and overseeing the canonization process. 

This latest news means, in essence, that the Society of Jesus is committing its resources to moving ahead with the canonization process, such as interviewing people who knew Father Arrupe and soliciting proof of miracles that took place after prayers for his intercession. Historically such miracles have often been considered the result of the prayers of people asking for the saint’s intercession (James T. Keane, America Magazine). 

At the meeting in Bilbao, Fr. Sosa, requesting for prayers for the cause and the assistance of anyone having religious devotion to Fr. Arrupe, commended Fr. Arrupe as, “a man of truth rooted in Christ and dedicated to mission”.  Fr. Arrupe’s dedication to Jesuit mission – as a missionary to Japan in 1938 – had its roots in his witnessing of the healing miracle of a polio stricken young man at Lourdes, which eventually transformed Arrupe from a medical student to a humble Jesuit novice in 1927. He studied for the priesthood in Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1936.

Sculpture of Fr. Perdo Arrupe S.J. at the University of San Francisco – A Spanish Noble and Jesuit Superior General

Fr. Arrupe was a profoundly committed Jesuit from the very start of his missionary endeavor in Japan. While serving as Jesuit superior and Jesuit Novice Master, on August 6, 1945 when the United States dropped a devastating bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, destroying almost the entire city, he readily became the first responder and converted an ordinary Jesuit novitiate into a makeshift hospice attending to seriously wounded people in the bomb blast.  This experience impacted him greatly on his life and world view. Distressed by the plight of the Vietnamese boat people, he would constitute the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in 1980 to address the humanitarian and educational needs of refugees and internally displaced people, and stated: “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”. Thanks to Fr. Arrupe, today JRS serves and accompanies more than 733,000 refugees and forcibly displaced migrants worldwide and has over 60 educational projects.

Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., in 1968 (ARSI Roma).

In 1958, Fr. Arrupe was appointed as the provincial of Japan, and then in 1965, he was elected as the Superior General of the Society of Jesus matching the profile of a Superior General envisioned by the French Jesuit Maurice Giuliani who exhorted the delegates at the 31st General Congregation 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 genuinely lived up to this expectation to his very last day as Superior General and encouraged Jesuits across the globe to heed the prophetic call of the Second Vatican Council and defined the Society’s mission as “service of the faith and the promotion of justice” in the 32nd General Congregation. He refocused the Jesuit education and famously mandated the Jesuit educators and students to be “men (and women) for others” in his 1973 address. Today this is being universally adhered to in Jesuit education across the globe.

LJSS School in Kasungu, Malawi displaying Fr. Arrupe’s famous motto.

After a cerebral stroke on August 7, 1981, his health deteriorated and resigned as Superior General in 1983 and died in Rome on February 5, 1991. Fr. Arrupe had a great personality, laughed easily and made everyone feel at home. 

His universal vision and writings continue to infuse the mission of the Society of Jesus with vital energy and focus. He has been also called the “Second Founder” of the Society of Jesus.

This short documentary entitled Pedro Arrupe: His Life and Legacy was published by Georgetown University in 2007 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Father Arrupe, S.J.