Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.


Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. was born in Druten (Gelderland), the Netherlands, on 30 November 1928. After graduating from Canisius College in Nijmegen, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Mariëndaal, Grave, in 1948. Subsequently, he studied philosophy in Nijmegen and taught German at Aloysius College in The Hague, while pursuing studies in linguistics.


He then studied theology at Saint Joseph University, Beirut, and was ordained a priest in the Armenian rite on 29 June 1961. Professor at the Institute of Philosophy of this university, he studied Armenian first in Beirut, then to Paris.


After tertianship in the United States, Fr. Kolvenbach returned to Saint Joseph University in Beirut, first as a professor of general linguistics and Armenian, then as director of the Institute of Philosophy. He was a delegate to the 32nd General Congregation (1974-1975), as Vice-Provincial of the Near East. In 1981, he was appointed Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.


On 13 September 1983, during the 33rd General Congregation, he was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus. A man held in high esteem by all, Fr. Kolvenbach diligently steered the Society of Jesus. He convened the 34th General Congregation in 1995, in particular to update the Society’s law and redefine its priorities for the years to come.


Feeling his strength decline, he informed Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to present his resignation from the post of General. Consequently, on 14 January 2008, the 35th General Congregation accepted Father Kolvenbach’s request to resign. He returned to Beirut, where he died on 26 November 2016.