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The Jesuit “Conclave:” How the 31st successor of St. Ignatius will be chosen

2016-10-07

Jesuit Orlando Torres is very busy these days, because he is one of the 212 Jesuit voters responsible for choosing a new general for the Society of Jesus.

We talked to him about the mechanics of the election, an exciting process designed by San Ignacio de Loyola, in which there are neither candidates nor an election campaign. However, after seeing the results, it has proven very effective.

FR. ORLANDO TORRES
Jesuit
"In 2008, Fr. Nicholas was elected on the second ballot; and Fr. Kolvenbach, the previous superior general, who was elected in 1983, was elected to the first ballot. That's extraordinary! That means they had reached a discerned consensus about who was the right person at this time to take on the challenges of the Society."

They are now in the phase called "murmuratio” or "gossip," when voters exchange views on specific individuals. They can only talk face-to-face and cannot ask for a vote for anyone.

FR. ORLANDO TORRES
Jesuit
"I can ask him: in Europe is there a name of someone who, according to you, can do this job and respond to the challenges facing the Jesuits today? And he tells me, 'Yes, I am thinking of a certain person.' I ask him to tell me what his qualities are, and he lists them for me. Then I ask him, 'Tell me his limitations.' and he tells me. But he cannot say: 'Vote for him,' because that's propaganda. And he cannot say 'Do not vote for him' because that is propaganda. That is forbidden."

On the day of voting, after a Mass asking the Holy Spirit for help, they gather in this room again and pray silently for an hour before the start of the vote.

To be elected, the new general must obtain 50 percent, plus one, of the votes.

FR. ORLANDO TORRES
Jesuit
"After the election, we must write a decree on the new general, and then we call the pope. In the past it was necessary to visit the pope to break the news. Now, with cell phones... He is the first to know who has been chosen. It is not for approval, it is to report. The pope does not have to approve the choice: He is informed of the choice made by the congregation. Sometimes there are people who think: the pope has to approve... No, no, no. He does not have to approve. He is informed of the election."

This is perhaps the first election in which the Jesuits are relaying information on social networks.

The General Congregation has very active Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts, which offer interesting content, such as videos and photographs of the meetings.

Also Fr. James Martin, perhaps the most popular Jesuit on the Internet, has prepared this impressionable video to follow the exciting process.


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