Saturday, January 19, 2008

Election Day

As of just about right now, June 19th 7:45pm Sydney time, the delegates to the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus are preparing to elect a new general. I'll post the results when I know them, but I thought some people might be interested in how the election itself works. I've attached a description from the congregation below.


After four days of praying, reflecting and consulting among themselves, the 217 electors of the 35 General Congregation are ready to vote for a new Superior General on January 19. The day will begin at 8:00 with the concelebrated Mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit which is across the Curia. At 9:30 the electors will convene in the aula, recite the Veni Creator Spiritus, listen to an exhortation by Father Jacques Gellard, Assistant ad providentiam, and continue in personal prayer for the rest of an hour.

As prescribed by the Formula, each elector writes in his own hand, on the ballot he has received, the name of the one whom he chooses to be Superior General. After the ballots have been completed, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Secretary of the Congregation, Father Orlando Torres and his Assistant, Father Ignacio Echarte swear to God and in the presence of the electors to perform faithfully the duties of receiving and making public the votes. The votes are then collected and counted. The one who receives a simple majority of 109 votes is considered elected. The name of the one elected is immediately communicated to the Holy Father.

The Secretary of the Congregation handwrites the Decretum of election which is signed by Father Kolvenbach. Father Kolvenbach reads the Decretum in Latin: Ego Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., auctoritate Sedis Apostolicae et universae Societatis, Reverendum Patrem N…declaro electum in Praepositum Generalem Societatis Jesu, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. (“I declare Father N…elected as General of the Society of Jesus, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”). The newly elected General turns to the crucifix which has been placed in the center of the aula, and makes his profession of faith: I, N… firmly believe all and each of the truths contained in the Symbol of the faith. And proceeds to read the Creed.

At this point, all the electors, beginning with Father Kolvenbach, the Secretary and his Assistant, come forward to greet the new Superior General. When all the electors have greeted the new General the doors of the aula are opened and the Curia community greets Father General. The election ends with a procession to the chapel for a short prayer of thanksgiving.


On Sunday, the 20th of January at 16:00 hours, there will be a concelebrated Mass at the Gesù Church. A few minutes before the Mass, the newly elected Superior General, accompanied by four electors and a deacon, will enter the rooms of Saint Ignatius (camerette). In the place where Father Ignatius wrote the Constitutions, the group will pause for a moment of silent prayer. The deacon will proclaim the following passage from the Gospel of Saint Mathew (Mt. 2: 8-12): You must not be called “teacher” for you are all brothers and have only one Teacher, […] Nor should be called “leader” because your one and only leader is the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. […].

The most senior member of the electors will turn to Father General and remind him of the kind of person Part IX of Constitutions says the Superior General ought to be. In the rooms where Saint Ignatius wrote these words, the will hold and especially poignant meaning.

At the end of this brief ceremony, Father General and those who accompanied him will beginning the procession into the Gesù Church for the Mass of Thanksgiving. After the Mass Father General will process to the altar of Saint Ignatius where a votive lamp remains burning for the duration of the General Congregation and venerate the relics of our Holy Founder which are kept in a reliquary beneath the altar.