The 29th Superior General
Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was a Jesuit fully immersed in the Life and Mission of the Society of Jesus. For him, the mission of the Society of Jesus could only be defined and understood properly in the context of the mission of the entire Church. Therefore, from the outset as Superior General, he sought to draw his brother Jesuits to the mission of the Society as described in the founding document, The Formula of the Institute.
In a letter Father Kolvenbach addressed to the entire society on the day after he was elected Superior General, he wrote:
The Lord wishes to make use of our Society to announce to the men and women of today’s world—with a pastoral preference for those who suffer injustices in this world—the Good News of the Kingdom in a way that speaks to their culture and condition of life. He wants us in this way to serve His Church and the Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II.
Father Kolvenbach was able to assure both his Jesuit brethren and the pope of his simultaneous fraternity and loyalty. This was instrumental in the good relations Father Kolvenbach enjoyed with Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Throughout his term as Superior General, these words of The Formula of the Institute would play a significant role:
Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the Name of Jesus, and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth, should, after a solemn vow of perpetual chastity, poverty and obedience, keep what follows in mind.
He is a member of a Society founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, by means of public preaching, lectures and any other ministration whatsoever of the Word of God, and further by means of retreats, the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity, and the spiritual consolation of Christ's faithful through hearing confessions and administering the other sacraments.
Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.