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The Superior General of the Society of Jesus is the official title of the leader of the Society of Jesus—the Roman Catholic religious order, also known as the Jesuits. He is generally addressed as Father General. The position carries the nickname of Black Pope, after his simple black priest's vestments, as contrasted to the white garb of the Pope. The current Superior General is the Reverend Father Adolfo Nicolás.


The formal title in Latin is Praepositus Generalis, which may fairly be rendered as "superior general" or even, "president general". The term is not of military origin, despite popular misconceptions, but is derived from "general", as opposed to "particular" (as with many other Catholic religious orders, like the Dominicans' "master general", Franciscans' "minister general", Carthusians' "prior general", etc. and many civil posts, such as Postmaster General, Attorney General and Receiver General). The Jesuits are organized into provinces, each with a provincial superior, (usually referred to as the "Provincial Father" or just "Provincial"), with the head of the order being the "general superior", for the whole organization. As a major superior, the Superior General is styled "The Very Reverend".

Black Pope

"Black Pope" is a light-hearted name given to the Superior General, usually by the media (and never used by the Jesuits themselves). The name comes partly from the color of the plain black priest's cassock, worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General and partly from a past concern, (most prominent around the 16th and 17th centuries), amongst Protestant European countries, concerning the relative power of the Jesuits within the Roman Catholic Church.


The Superior General is invested with ordinary power over the members of the Society, similar to the power given to a bishop over the people of a diocese. Superiors General submit themselves to the direct authority of and service to the Pope, not local ordinaries.


Superiors General are elected by the General Congregation of the Society, summoned upon the resignation, retirement or death of an incumbent. Superiors General are elected for life and almost all have served life terms, the exceptions being Father Pedro Arrupe (resigned for reasons of failing health) and his successor, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach. Kolvenbach's resignation was announced in February 2006, which led to the convocation of the 35th General Congregation. That General Congregation elected the current Superior General of the Society, Father Adolfo Nicolás, who succeeded Kolvenbach.

List of Superiors General

# Superior General Image Took office Left office Birthplace Length of term (in days)
1 Ignatius of Loyola Azpeitiamarker, Spainmarker
2 Almazánmarker, Spain
3 Gandiamarker, Spain
4 La Roche-en-Ardennemarker, Belgiummarker
5 Atrimarker, Italymarker
6 Romemarker, Italy
7 Naplesmarker, Italy
8 Sienamarker, Italy
9 Rome, Italy
10 Jülichmarker, Germanymarker
11 Genoamarker, Italy
12 Brusselsmarker, Belgium
13 Arganza, Spain
14 Modenamarker, Italy
15 Praguemarker, Bohemia
16 Milanmarker, Italy
17 Genoa, Italy
18 Florencemarker, Italy
-- Kaunasmarker, Lithuaniamarker
-- Polotskmarker, Belarusmarker
-- Orshamarker, Belarus
-- Viennamarker, Austriamarker
19 Kaliningradmarker, Russiamarker
20 Veronamarker, Italy
21 Amsterdammarker, Netherlandsmarker
22 Scherpenheuvel-Zichemmarker, Belgium
23 Berisalmarker, Switzerlandmarker
24 Melgar de Fernamentalmarker, Spain
25 Rottweilmarker, Germany
26 Loosdorfmarker, Austria
27 Mechelenmarker, Belgium
28 Bilbaomarker, Spain
29 Drutenmarker, Netherlands
30 Villamuriel de Cerratomarker, Spain

Leadership during suppression

In 1773, the Jesuits were suppressed by Pope Clement XIV, through the Papal brief Dominus ac Redemptor on July 21, 1773, executed August 16. The leaders of the order, in the nations where the Papal suppression order was not enforced, were known as temporary Vicars General.

The temporary Vicars General were:

On March 7, 1801, Pope Pius VII issued the brief Catholicae fidei, giving approval to the existence of the Society in Russia and allowing the Society there to elect a Superior General for Russia. This was the first step to the Society's eventual restoration.

The Superiors General in Russia were:
  • Franciszek Kareu (March 7, 1801–August 11, 1802)
  • Gabriel Gruber (October 22, 1802–April 6, 1805)
  • Tadeusz Brzozowski (September 14, 1805–August 7, 1814)

The order was restored on August 7, 1814, by Pope Pius VII, through the papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum.

See also

Notes and references

  1. News on the elections of the new Superior General
  2. Lists the present-day name and nationality of the city in question.
  3. Vicar General
  4. Vicar General until March 7, 1801, Superior General for Russia thereafter.
  5. Superior General for Russia only.
  6. Superior General for Russia only from September 14, 1805 to August 7, 1814.

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