Skip to main content

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus has passed away at the age of 84 in Tokyo, Japan. Fr. Nicolás served as the General of Society until his health no longer permitted him to in 2016. He was a member of the Jesuit community of Loyola House in Kamishakujii and is mourned by Jesuits and friends worldwide.

“I offer my sincere condolences to the Jesuit Province of Japan, to Fr. Nicolas’ family, to the Jesuits in Spain and the Philippines and to his many friends all around the world,” said Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, current Superior General. “Fr. Nicolás gave of himself throughout his life. It was a life marked by intense service, calm availability and a deep ability to inculturate in Japan, where he went as a young Jesuit. It was a culture he loved dearly and to which he committed himself.”

His strong relationship with Pope Benedict and his close bonds with Pope Francis helped the Society move into an unprecedented phase — the first Jesuit pope in the Catholic Church's history.

“The Society was founded to serve the Lord alone and the Church his spouse under the Roman pontiff,” said Fr. Sosa. “Fr. Nicolás helped the Society to live in a concrete way this dimension so characteristic of our charism. It was a relationship of availability to the Holy Father which was also full of sincere affection."

Born of his parents, Adolfo Nicolás Rico and Modesta Pachón, on April 29, 1936, political corruption in Spain forced his family to move away. Fr. Nicolás spent a large portion of his childhood in Barcelona and attended a Jesuit school in Madrid.

He studied philosophy in Spain before moving to Japan both to learn the language and complete his regency. Fr. Nicolás continued his theological studies in Tokyo, where he was ordained a priest on March 17, 1967. He then completed a master's degree in Sacred Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome and was professor of systematic theology at Sophia University in Tokyo.

From 1978 until 1984, Fr. Nicolás served as director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, Philippines. After years of service there, he returned to Japan and was rector of the scholasticate in Tokyo from 1991 to 1993.

Fr. Nicolás was then appointed provincial of Japan, a position he held until 1999. In 1995, he participated in the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus; at the beginning of the gathering, he was elected secretary of the Congregation. From 2004 to 2007, he served as moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, a position he held until he was elected Superior General on January 19, 2008, during the 35th General Congregation. 

Among Fr. Nicolás’ many achievements are the 2010 address to Jesuit college and university presidents in Mexico City entitled Depth, Universality, and Learned Ministry: Challenges to Jesuit Higher Education Today, the historic gathering in Chicago of AJCU presidents and board chairs in 2013, and the approval of the Mission Priority Examen (MPE) for AJCU schools.  John Carroll was among the first three schools to undergo this process in 2016.  Fr. Nicholas was encouraged by the visiting team’s evaluation and noted that they “confidently affirm the strong, lived commitment of the University to its Jesuit, Catholic mission value and endorse the University community’s vision and priorities for strengthening this commitment in the future.”  

He convened the 36th General Congregation and offered his resignation on October 3, 2016. After accepting his resignation, the Congregation elected his successor, the current Superior General, Fr. Sosa.

The John Carroll University and Jesuit communities mourn the loss of Fr. Adolfo Nicolás. For more, please visit a memorial website set up in his honor at