FAQs – General Congregation
What is a General Congregation?
It is one of the means of uniting the members of the Society of Jesus among themselves and thus, is meant to represent the whole body of the Society. A general congregation is the ultimate governing body of the Society when it is in session. Once the congregation begins, it alone can determine when it has completed its business, as there is no scheduled ending time.
How many people will be at this Congregation?
225 members, with 218 of that being electors. 8 ex-officio members appointed by the Superior General will be in attendance, but will not vote as electors.
What is the breakdown of this membership? Where are the members coming from?
Latin America: 40
Asia and Australia: 64
North America (USA and Canada): 34
What topics will a general congregation often cover?
Overwhelmingly, they deal with what would preserve, protect and advance the life of the Society, the individual and common religious life of its members and its external apostolates to which they have committed themselves.
What is a postulate?
A postulate is an item presented for consideration to the General Congregation, with the intention of renewal in mission and governance.
What is the 35th General Congregation going to be consider?
The grand total of postulates at the beginning of December came to 412. (Postulates can be sent to the Curia until January 7, 2008, the day the General Congregation begins its deliberations.) One group of postulates GC35 will not consider concerns the changing of Father General’s life-time term. Former Superior General Fr. Kolvenbach asked Pope Benedict XVI about the possibility, but the Holy Father replied that he does not want the term of the General changed.
How does voting on the postulates occur?
At a congregation, committees are arranged according to subject matter. The committees may amend the items if needed, and forward them to the whole body with a recommendation on what to do with them. The congregation finally votes on an agreed-upon text. If the vote is positive, that text officially becomes a decree or enactment that bind the Society’s members to its provisions.
The GC will be electing a new Superior General. How will this happen?
“As with a papal election, politicking is banned, there are no nominees going into the congregation and voting is preceded by formal presentations on the current state of affairs and future challenges and possibilities.” (CNS)
Members of the General Congregation have known about the election of a new Father General for about two years, which is obviously different than the election of a new Pope. This advance notice allowed for each province around the word to elect delegates to send to Rome to elect the new Superior General, as well as draft postulata or proposals for the General Congregation to consider.
The election of a new Superior General follows a series of events. First, there commences four days of prayer and one-on-one conversation concerning the upcoming vote. After this time, the delegates concelebrate a Mass of the Holy Spirit. The delegates will then return to the General Congregation hall, where after an hour of silent prayer, voting will begin. Once a candidate garners the majority of votes, the election is considered over. The electors are not permitted to leave the General Congregation hall however, until Pope Benedict XVI has been notified of the election results and has given his consent to the newly elected Superior General.