Jesuits bid farewell to Fr General Kolvenbach
The funeral of Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ has been held at St Joseph's Jesuit Church for Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour, Beirut, Lebanon. Fr Kolvenbach, who was the Superior General of the Society of Jesus between 1983 and 2008, died on 26 November 2016.
The funeral Mass was celebrated in French and was attended by patriarchs and bishops, clergy and religious (including many Jesuits), as well as students, teachers and government ministers. Relatives took part too, including Fr Kolvenbach’s sister-in-law and a nephew who had travelled from the Netherlands.
The principal concelebrant at the Eucharist was the Jesuit Provincial of the Proche Orient (Near East) Province, Fr Dany Youness SJ. He was joined by Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ (who preached in Spanish), Fr Antoine Kerhuel SJ, the Secretary of the Society of Jesus and Fr Victor Assouad SJ, the newly appointed Regional Assistant for Europe and the Near East.
Devoted service to the Church
In his homily, Fr General Sosa described Fr Kolvenbach as “both a father and a brother” to all, saying “he was truly a man of God”. The Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Caccia read out a personal message from Pope Francis, who praised Fr Kolvenbach for his integral fidelity to Christ and his Gospel and for his devoted service to the Church. The Armenian and Maronite Patriarchs also delivered eulogies in which they highlighted Fr Kolvenbach’s silent but significant contribution in different fields.
Fr Kolvenbach has been missioned to Lebanon in 1958 and was ordained to the priesthood in Beirut in 1961. He continued his studies in Lebanon, as well as at the Sorbonne in Paris and in the Netherlands. He worked as a professor of linguistics at L'Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut and as vice-provincial of the Jesuits’ Near-East Vice-Province, a region that included Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, before being appointed as rector of the Oriental Institute in Rome. In 1983, Fr Kolvenbach was elected by the delegates of General Congregation 33 (GC33) to succeed Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ as the order’s leader. After resigning as Superior General in 2008, Fr Kolvenbach returned to the Province of the Near East, serving as assistant librarian in the Jesuit community in Beirut.
Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, who attended Fr Kolvenbach’s funeral, described it as “simple yet solemn: very representative of many cultures, languages, nationalities and rites.” He said the congregation “had come to say their ‘final farewell’ to a man who made the Near East his home, immersing himself in the local culture and particularly in the Armenian tradition.”