July 12, 2018 — The Society of Jesus has begun the first steps toward the process of beatification for Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, current Superior General, announced the opening of the process at the meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Universities in Bilbao, Spain, on July 11.
“We are still at the beginning of the process, but Angelo de Donatis, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, has given the diocese of Rome approval to open the process of beatification,” Fr. Sosa said. Arrupe was “a man of truth rooted in Christ and dedicated to mission, whose greatest miracle is that we are here today.”
The process by which the Catholic Church declares someone a saint is a multi-step one, concluding with canonization. Fr. Arrupe is already a “Servant of God.” Beatification, the declaration by the Catholic Church that the person is “Blessed,” is the last step before canonization in the normal sequence. (Fr. Arrupe has not yet been publicly declared "Venerable" by the Vatican, a step before beatification.)
Jesuit Father Pascual Cebollada, general postulator of the Society of Jesus, has begun compiling Fr. Arrupe’s writings and seeking eyewitnesses who can attest to his holiness. The task of compiling a list of 120 witnesses, especially those who personally knew Fr. Arrupe, should "be finished in about a year," Fr. Cebollada told Catholic News Service. "I can tell you that these witnesses will be from various places: from Spain where he was born; Japan where he was first sent by his superiors; and from Rome where he lived the last years of his life." Fr. Arrupe's writings will be studied by theological censors who will "testify whether or not there is anything against the faith or tradition of the church."
"Arrupe is the best of the Jesuits, although this may sound exaggerated and emotional," Fr. Cebollada said. "But for many of us, from different generations, Fr. Arrupe is an example of being rooted in Christ, a man of the church, a man who follows the calling of the Holy Spirit and, without fear, made the decisions he needed to make because he was rooted in God."
Fr. Cebollada said that Pope Francis and countless other Jesuits who lived during and after Fr. Arrupe's death in 1991 continue to be inspired by his life and spirituality. The general postulator recalled Pope Francis' meeting with a group of Jesuits during his visit to Peru in January, in which the pope recalled "the grace of the generalate of Fr. Pedro Arrupe."
Pope Francis "gave several examples of Fr. Arrupe as a person who helped us Jesuits rediscover our spirituality in the 1970s," Fr. Cebollada said.
Despite the pope's admiration for the late superior general, Fr. Cebollada said that Pope Francis will play no role in preparing Fr. Arrupe's cause.
"The pope is the last person in this long process of discernment in a beatification or canonization cause. He is the last judge, and, in the end, it is he who approves the decree. So, he cannot be in the middle of this; he, or his successor, is the one at the end (of the process) who would eventually sign the decree," Fr. Cebollada said.
Fr. Arrupe served as superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983. Born in Spain in 1907, he entered the Jesuits in 1927. He was ordained in 1936 and moved to Japan in 1938 to work as a missionary. He died on Feb. 5, 1991.
His influence on the Society can be seen in the countless apostolates, residences and other Jesuit initiatives (as well as those embracing the Ignatian charism) that bear his name today, as well as in the many phrases and sayings attributed to him (not all correctly). His famous 1973 address to Jesuit educators and students, “Men for Others,” has become a central guiding document for Jesuit education.
“More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God,” Fr. Arrupe wrote in another famous speech, “Hands of God.” “It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.” [Sources: America Magazine, Catholic News Service]