Death of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau SJ

Born on the Italian Island of Sardinia in 1928, Giuseppe Pittau entered the Society of Jesus in 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He arrived in Japan in 1952 as a Jesuit missionary, and spent most of his academic life at Sophia University, with a period spent doing doctoral studies in political science at Harvard.  On return to Japan in 1962 he taught law at Sophia University, where he became rector in 1975.  In the words of those who knew him and worked with him he was an “intellectual, administrative, and spiritual giant”.

He played a very important role in the development of Sophia University.  Among his lasting contributions were the democratic process of electing a President (voted not only by the faculty, but also by the staff), the increase in the number of students (from about 5,000 to 10,000), the addition or re-arrangement of several departments and faculties. Most admirable, according to many, was his foresight, arising from his dream of making Sophia a university that can significantly contribute to Japan by remaining faithful to its Jesuit/Catholic calling. He was especially interested in making Sophia an international university, bringing in not only European, Australian, and American professors but also Asian ones from countries like India, the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. 

In 1980 he became Provincial of Japan.  In 1981, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to serve as coadjutor of Father Paolo Dezza, who had been designated as Pontifical Delegate for the Society of Jesus at the time of Father Pedro Arrupe’s illness.

His “Roman” period extended through 2003, during which time he was called to serve various missions in the governance of the Society. During General Congregation 33 (1983), Fr Kolvenbach appointed him as General Counselor.  He would also serve as East Asia Regional Assistant (1983-1987) and Delegate of the Interprovincial Houses in Rome (1988-1992). The Holy Father appointed him rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University (1992-1998), a position he combined with the service as General Councilor and Delegate for the "Civiltà Cattolica", appointed by Father General (1995-1998).

In 1998 he received episcopal ordination with the title of Archbishop of Castro, Sardinia, and the Holy Father appointed him Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He served the Holy See in various capacities: Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (1997), Consultant of the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Culture (1998), as Board Member of the Pontifical Health Services, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (1999), and Consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2000).

In 2003 he returned to his home province of Japan, where he continued various pastoral and teaching ministries.

He died on 26th December 2014 attended by members of his community and family who had travelled from Italy.

Pope Francis offered the following words of condolence in a telegram to Fr General last weekend:

Reverend Father, having been informed of the passing away of His Excellency Monsignor Giuseppe Pittau, I wish to express my sincere condolences to you, to all his Jesuit brothers and to all those who grieve the death of an exemplary minister of God who lived for the cause of the Gospel. Recalling his generous missionary apostleship in Japan, where he ended his earthly life, I give thanks to the Lord for the service he rendered to the Apostolic See as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education and for his work as President of Tokyo’s Sophia University as well as Rector of the Gregorian University in Rome and for his dedication to the Society of Jesus. Entrusting his soul to the maternal intercession of Our Lady I impart my Apostolic Blessing in the light of the Resurrection of Christ.