The priest succeeds Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 79, who presented his resignation after having led the order for nearly 25 years.
The 217 electors, gathered in Rome since Jan. 7 in their 35th General Congregation, elected the successor of Father Kolvenbach after a second round of voting (at least 109 votes were necessary).
In this position for life, the priest will lead 19,564 Jesuits, who live in 127 countries throughout the world. St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the order in 1534.
Adolfo Nicolás was born April 29, 1936, in Spain. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 1953, and completed his studies in philosophy before leaving in 1960 for Japan to immerse himself in the Japanese culture and language.
Between 1968 and 1971 he studied semiotics at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Between 1971 and 2002 he was professor of systematic theology at Sophia University in Tokyo.
From 1979 to 1984 Father Nicolás was director of the Pastoral Institute of Manila in the Philippines and then rector of the house for young Asian theology students.
He was provincial of Japan from 1993 to 1999. He participated in 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1995.
From 2004 to 2007 Father Nicolás was the moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, making his contribution to the growth of the Jesuit presence in Vietnam and in other countries.
For three years he occupied himself in a special way with a poor immigrant parish on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Aside from the native Spanish, the Jesuits' new general superior speaks Japanese, English, French and Italian.