February 5th 1991 - Arrupe Pedro
† in Rome
When Pope John Paul II heard that Father General Arrupe was close to his end, he visited him shortly before his death and gave him the Apostolic Blessing.
Arrupe was the twenty eighth General of the Society of Jesus. He died at an age of eighty four.
His body was laid out in state for three days in the house chapel of the General Curia, where several thousand people from all social classes came to honour him, to pray, to cry and to say thanks to God that he had given him to us. On February 9th he was buried in the Order Church Il Gesù. On the coffin lay only the Holy Scripture. In accordance with an old tradition the General Master of the Dominicans, Father Damian Byrne, said the Mass for the dead, assisted by eight cardinals, among them Carlo Maria Martini SJ, the archbishop of Milan. About five hundred priests, mostly Jesuits concelebrated. The homily was held by Father Kolvenbach, who then followed Father Arrupe as General.
Arrupe was Basque like Ignatius. He was born as the last of five children in Bilbao on November 14th 1907. With fifteen years he began in Madrid the study of medicine, which he gave up in 1927 to enter on January 14th 1927 in Loyola the noviciate of the Society of Jesus.
When the Spanish government ordered the abolition of the Order he had to go abroad. Arrupe studied now first in Belgium, then 1933-1936 in Valkenburg (Netherlands). After his ordination on July 30th 1936 in Marneffe (Belgium) he studied the fourth year theology in the USA. During his vacation he went to Mexico in order to work there. After his tertianship in Cleveland (Ohio) he sailed on October 15th 1938 to Japan, the country of his longing of many years.
After studies of Japan's language and culture he was already in 1940 employed as Minister (butler/house-servant for his Brethren) in Yamaguchi, but already in 1942 he was appointed 'Magister Noviciorum' in Hieroshima.
Under the suspicion of espionage he came for thirty-three days into prison during the war, an experience for which he was grateful to his surprised guards. Towards the end of the war, on August 6th 1945 in the morning shortly before 9 o'clock, he experienced the release of the atom bomb.
The noviciate was on the outskirts of the city. With his novices Arrupe hurried to help the victims. Now his medical knowledge was helpful. The noviciate house too was strongly damaged. Windows and doors were missing. Some novices were hurt. Nevertheless the house was furnished as an auxiliary hospital for blood transfusions. About 220 patients found assistance and care. They lay closely side by side on the ground and suffered visibly. The chapel too was occupied.
When Arrupe said Mass on the next morning and to the 'Dominus vobiscum' (at that time one did not yet celebrate towards the people) turned round, he remained standing with stretched out arms like paralysed, seeing that human tragedy. Six months later the last patients could go home. Only two had died. Some had received the baptism. Many recognized the value of suffering, and the beauty and greatness of the loving care for the victims.
Arrupe remained magister up to his appointment as Vice Provincial of the Japanese Province on March 22nd 1954. When four years later Japan was raised to an independent province, Arrupe became its first provincial. Under his leadership the province blossomed out in all its works and activities.
Arrupe published eight Japanese books, among them a book about communism, a comment on the Spiritual Exercises, and his much-considered book 'I Experienced the Atom Bomb'.
On May 22nd 1965 the 31st General Congregation elected in the third ballot Father Arrupe General of the Society of Jesus. The Second Vatican Council had just ended. Several drastic changes were about to happen. They became the touchstone for him and his office. The number of Jesuits decreased substantially. Many left the Order, but only few entered it.
During his Generalate Father Arrupe undertook many journeys to visit and to encourage the Jesuits all over the world. He experienced incredible poverty, but also incomparable wealth. In all those experiences of different countries and cultures he remained passionately devoted to the church. He was a man with great visions and with an unusual gift for human friendship. His main and last concern as General was the Jesuit Refugee Service which had been initiated by him.
When Father Arrupe in summer 1980 clearly felt the limits of his strengths, he conferred with his Assistants and Provincials and communicated to the Pope his intention to withdraw from his post as General. All were surprised that the Pope rejected that plan. Hence Arrupe stayed in office and worked up to the point of exhaustion.
On August 7th 1981, when he returned from a fortnightly journey to the Philippines, he suffered a cerebral apoplexy on the Roman airport, from which he did not recover.
Instead of the by Arrupe nominated Father Vincent O'Keefe, who was since 1965 General Assistant, the Pope entrusted the Fathers Dezza and Pittau with the provisional leadership of the Order.
On May 22nd 1982, the 17 anniversary of his election as General, Father Arrupe held a speech. He said:
'Now that the loving hand of the Lord has imposed upon me restrictions and limits, I thank God today with all my heart for all that he let me do in Christ's service in the past years. In the evening of my life I feel nearer the Lord whom I served. All my faults I leave to the boundless mercy of his heart, in the firm certainty of his understanding and love.'
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