New Jesuit Superior to Focus on Service

Says Mission of Society Is Imitating Lamb of God

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By Marta Lago

ROME, JAN. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- As Jesuits, as Christians and as people of God, we are called to serve the Church, the world and the Gospel, the new superior-general of the Jesuits said in the Mass of thanksgiving for his election.

Father Adolfo Nicolás, 71, was elected superior-general of the Society of Jesus on Saturday. The order is in Rome celebrating its 35th General Congregation.

The priest succeeds Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 79, who presented his resignation after having led the order for nearly 25 years.

Father Nicolás presided over the Sunday Eucharist and was received with applause from the countless faithful who participated in the celebration.

Immediately before the Liturgy of the Word, he prayed: "Oh God, eternal king of everything, you have instituted a Society ardently in love with Christ and the Church his spouse, look on me, your servant, with kindness, whom you have prepared as successor of St. Ignatius, to rule and watch over this apostolic body.

"Grant that I may conserve it and develop it in unity and charity, through prayer, word and example, so that, pleasing you in everything, it can achieve the end which you have desired."

Explosion of salvation

In his first words delivered to the public, Father Nicolás centered his Italian-language homily on the mission of Christians in the world. "We are here to serve," affirmed the new superior-general. "In this the Lord is pleased."

"To serve is what counts," he insisted, "to serve the Church, to serve the world, to serve men, to serve the Gospel."

God is the "only strength of the servant," Father Nicolás added. "For the poor, only God is strength. For us, only God is strength."

"Our God, our faith, our message," is universal, the priest continued. It is news "of salvation for all nations," though he said "nation" should not be defined geographically because there are other "human communities that need our assistance: the poor, the marginalized, the excluded […] the disabled […] those who are manipulated."

"We want this salvation […] to spread, like an explosion of salvation […] according to the heart of God, his will, his Spirit," Father Nicolás said.

"The Lamb of God presented himself as a servant," the Jesuit continued, saying this is the mission of the Society of Jesus.

In the concluding rite of the Mass, Father Nicolás and the principal concelebrants approached the altar of St. Ignatius, the 16th-century founder of the Society of Jesus.