Friday, January 25, 2008

Father-General Meets the Press

Earlier today, the newly-elected Jesuit supremo held an availability for members of the media. Yet while Fr Adolfo Nicolás sought to shirk his office's traditional moniker in his inaugural message last week, one could be forgiven for mistaking the session for a papal event -- "black" papal, sure, but still....

The Rome press corps was addressed by the 30th Father-General, but the Jesuit Curia's invitation to the "brief encounter" emphasized that Nico would "not entertain questions."

All's not lost, however -- at least, in the long-term; a full-blown press conference (with questions) is foreseen for the end of the General Congregation. The "White" Pope only does those whilst in-flight.

The work of the GC is now taking place in small groups, with the 225 delegates divided into discussion circles on specific topics ranging from obedience to the Jesuit mission to collaboration with the laity. And later today, according to the plans, final preparations will be made for the election of Nicolas' formal "inner circle" -- the four assistants ad providentiam who'll comprise his General Council.

From the sidelines, the newly-emeritus FG Peter-Hans Kolvenbach might be getting to enjoy the first days of his retirement, with the promise of a post-GC return to his beloved Lebanon. But even so, the one fan he's vowed to obey might just have more in store for him.

In his "Letter from Rome" for tomorrow's edition of The Tablet, Robert Mickens notes the considerable buzz that B16 is leaning toward conferring the red hat on Kolvenbach at a future consistory. A priest of the Armenian rite, the former General turns 80 in November.

The rumor's floated around Rome in cycles for some time, and it's no secret that Papa Ratzi is quite fond of the first successor of St Ignatius to have left office on his own volition -- a prospect that, so it's said, couldn't get a positive hearing in the Apostolic Palace until Kolvenbach's longtime ally took up residence there.

Personal ties aside, the prospect of PHK with the magic letters "SER" placed before his name would keep him in the spotlight much more than if they weren't... a scenario which, given the latter's legacy of smooth relations between the Society and the Holy See, might be just what the Pope would want.

There is precedent for such a move. Well, sort of.

In 1991, John Paul II made a cardinal of Fr Paolo Dezza, who the late pontiff named as his delegate to oversee the Society a decade earlier. The 1981 "intervention" that saw the onetime confessor of Paul VI act as de facto General -- and led a Spanish novitiate to name its pitbull for him as a result -- ended two years later, when GC33 elected the diplomatic Dutchman to the post.

PHOTO: Jesuit Media Office