Saturday, December 27, 2008

General Nicolas with Fellow Jesuits in Japan

The General Addressing Jesuits

December 26 was a busy day for Jesuits in Japan. More than 60% of the Japanese Province, about 160 men, gathered in Kibe Hall, the Japanese Jesuit Headquarters in central Tokyo. There were young and old, brothers and priests, foreigners and Japanese, coming from far (Nagasaki and Sapporo) and near (Sophia University, next door). The formal meeting began at 10:00 AM with a prayer, followed by a welcome speech by Shogo Sumita, the Japanese Provincial. Then came the main guest of the day, the Superior General, Adolfo Nicolas, dressed in black with a roman collar, as he regularly appears these days.

"Here I feel very much at home," the General began, after introductory bows and hellos, "since so far nobody has knelt before me asking to be blessed." Peppering his talk with amusing anecdotes and entertaining episodes, he gave a brief "State of the Society" address, outlining how the headquarters of the Society function in Rome, how the relations between the Society and the Vatican are improving, and how overall the Jesuits are enthusiastic apostles rather than troublesome whiners. He highlighted especially the painstaking work that Jesuits do in the Amazon regions of Brazil, in former Communist countries, and in countries where religious freedom is non-existent. Speaking in fluent Japanese throughout, he recalled the recent beatification of Peter Kibe, S.J, and 187 martyrs and told the audience that the rest of the Society has great expectations from the Japanese Province.

Jesuits together for Mass

Clearly, Nicolas is a very optimistic General, affirming the positive and encouraging the audience. He exuded confidence, hope, and enthusiasm. No dark clouds in his horizon! It has to be added, though, that his optimism was enlightened, not naive. He did point out that the Society's strength may dwindle to less than 10,000 within the next few years, and there are many challenges ahead. He also goaded the audience, with self-deprecating humor, to reflect on why Jesuits seemed to work better individually than collectively.

The Stats

After a break for lunch, Shnizo Kawamura, a Jesuit Professor at Sophia University, gave an hour-long presentation, complete with PowerPoint slides, on the 100-year history of the Society of Jesus in Japan. Beginning with the reasons that kept the Jesuits away from Japan soon after the Restoration, he introduced the major Popes and Jesuits who contributed to the growth of Jesuits and Jesuit apostolates in Japan. Perhaps the most exciting of his topics was the Church's position on Catholics 'bowing' at the Yasukuni (Shinto) Shrine in the 1930s, when, for a time, Church authorities saw no reason to forbid Catholics from visiting the shrine. The Church took such a stand since the Government, in response to a query from the Archbishop, had explained: "The visit of shrines is required from students of higher schools and students of middle and primary schools for educational reasons. The inclination required on these occasions from the students and pupils as a group has no other purpose than that of manifesting the sentiments of patriotism and loyalty." Kawamura's sobering statistics may be an eye-opener for most Jesuits and others concerned with the welfare of the Church.

Kawamura Presenting

The climax of the day was surely the liturgy, in which the General acted as the chief celebrant and homilist, and seven Jesuits pronounced their final vows. In his homily, the General gave friendly advice to the vowants--especially to transcend petty worries concering troublesome superiors and defective colleagues and to focus on their avowed commitment to serve God and the Church. He also exhorted them to be 'available' as Ignatius would like them to be--adding that they might even be called upon to serve in other parts of the world.

Seven Jesuits for Final Vows

After Mass, there was a reception to celebrate not only the memorable visit of the General, but also the 100 years of Jesuit presence in Japan and the Final Vows of the 'Seven Samurai.' The General enthusiastically mingled with the crowd, meeting many old friends and making new friends as well.
Nicolas at the Reception

Photos (c) Jesuits of Japan

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jesuit General Nicolas addresses Sophians

Fr. General on the podium

The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, arrived in Tokyo safe and sound on Sunday (2008-12-21)--accompanied by Fr. Jose de Vera, who served for many years as the PR man of the Jesuits in Rome--in time for lunch with his former Jesuit colleagues at Sophia University. He looked relaxed, healthy, and cheerful as usual. Many were relieved to see him still the same: casual, cordial, jovial, warm, and committed to fulfilling his responsibilities. Keeping a busy schedule, he addressed Sophia University Faculty and Staff on Monday morning, although his time for the session was extended from 15 minutes to nearly an hour. In the afternoon, he addressed Sophia University students and interested outsiders. There was a large crowd despite the fact that his address was scheduled during class time. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Osaka, Leo Jun Ikenaga, S.J., too came all the way from Osaka to meet with the General and listen to his address.

Archbishop Ikenaga in the audience

On Tuesday, the General met with numerous other persons, including Cardinal Peter Shirayanagi (who took the trouble of coming to Sophia University), with whom he had lunch.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, he met with the board members of Sophia University, and had dinner with them and their partners in the Jesuit Residence. He plans to celebrate Christmas Mass this evening with Sophians--but simply as one of the concelebrants rather than as the chief celebrant or chief homilist.

The General flanked by Provincial Fr. Sumita and Vice-President Dr. Grove
December 26 will be an important day for all the Jesuits of Japan, as many are expected to gather at St. Ignatius Church, Tokyo, to meet the General in person. The events of the day will include also an academic lecture by the young historian, Fr. Kawamura, S.J., Ph.D. (Professor in the Department of History, Sophia Univeristy), on Jesuit successes and failures during the past 100 years, and the Last Vows of several Jesuits.

Photos: Professor Mike Milward, S.J.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jesuit General Adolfo Nicolas to visit Sophia University

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.

The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., is expected to spend a few days in Japan, visiting especially his alma mater, Sophia University, and meeting with students and colleagues. Fr. Nicolas, as is now well-known, spent most of his life in Japan, having arrived in Japan as a missionary in 1961, at the age of 25. His connection with Sophia University too is long. Besides graduating from Sophia University's Faculty of Theology (1968), he also served as a Professor in the same Faculty for may years.

Although the Jesuits know well the role and importance of the visit of their Superior General, most non-Jesuits within Sophia University may not. Given the negligible fraction of Catholics in Japan, most students and members of the faculty are not Catholic or even Christian. Often in casual chats and surveys, students tend to say that they are 'atheists' (by which they simply mean that they don't go to places of worship or pray to a divinity, not that they are militant disbelievers). Although most of them have heard of and read about the Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier, they rarely draw a link between him and Sophia University. They may know that Sophia is a 'Christian' university, but their awareness that it is also a Catholic and a Jesuit University is rather dim as in this secular age, explicit religious references tend to be left out of focus. The visit of Fr. Nicolas, therefore, may be a great occasion for many to get to know the Catholic, Jesuit, and international dimension of Sophia University.

Fr. Nicolas will arrive on Sunday (12/21) and stay in Japan for about ten days. He is expected to dialog with several ecclesiastical dignitaries and address a wide variety of groups, both lay and religious. His engagements at Sophia University are as follows:

12/22 (M) (Bldg 10 Auditorium)
11:45 ~ 12:00 Address to Sophia University Faculty and Staff members (not open to the public)
15:30 ~ ?? Address to Sophia University Students (open to the public)

*As Fr. Nicolas is fluent in Japanese, both addresses will be in Japanese.
*Those interested in attending the 15:30 session may contact Sophia University Catholic Center (Tel: (03)3238-4146; Fax: (03)3238-3031)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sophia FFS to celebrate 50th Anniversary

Fr. John Nissel, S.J.
Sophia University established the Faculty of Foreign Studies (FFS) 50 years ago, with Fr. John Nissel, S.J., as the first Dean. The official Japanese name of the Faculty is Gaikokugo Gakubu 'Faculty of Foreign Languages,' and it includes the following six departments: English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Portuguese. Although the focus of the departments in earlier times was only language, the current curriculum embraces also area and culture studies.

On December 13, 2008, the Faculty, currently headed by Professor Kensaku Yoshida, will celebrate the 50th anniversary. The major events planned are as follows:

13:05 Dean's Welcome Greetings
13:15 Main Lecture by Mr. Yoshiteru Uramoto (1974 Graduate of the Deptartment of English, and currently Deputy to the Director General. United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in Vienna)
14:30 Break
14:30 - 15:30 20-minute lectures, by three high profile graduates.
15:40 - 17:00 Symposium with invited speakers and concluding remarks

All these free events will be held in the Bldg 10 Auditorium; they are open to everyone. No reservation is required.
Venerable Bldg 1 Corridor

17:30 -
Party (Bldg 2, 5Fl Dining Hall) only for those interested; 5,000 Yen Admission fee. Reservation recommended. Call 03-3238-3701 for reservation, or send email to f-foreign[at]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Archbishop Pittau Celebrates his 80th Birthday

Archbishop and former President of Sophia University Joseph Pittau celebrated his 80th birthday on November 20, and Sophia University and the Sophia Alumni threw a party for him on November 21. A large gathering of about 300 friends and well-wishers assembled in Building 9 Basement Cafeteria to greet him. His brother, a parish priest in Italy, and a large number of Jesuits and priests too were present.

Despite his age, Archbishop Pittau is in excellent health and is constantly in demand for lectures, liturgical appearances, and spiritual talks.

Archbishop Pittau [Photo by Francis Britto, 2007]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Four Jesuits of Japan to be Beatified

Logo by Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan

The Catholic Church in Japan eagerly awaits the beatification ceremony of 188 martyrs, to be held on November 24, 2008, in Nagasaki. Already many catholic delegations from different parts of Japan have arranged organized tours. Several students and professors from Sophia University and many parishoners of St. Ignatius Church, next door, will also be going for the ceremony.

Among the 188 illustrious martyrs, there are also four Jesuits, Peter Kibe being the most well-known. In fact, the official announcement of the ceremony refers to "Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs," giving him prominence. The other three Jesuits are the adventurous Julian Nakaura, who went to Europe in the 16th century and met Pope Gregory XIII and several royals; Diego Yuki Ryosetsu, who was ordained in Manila and excelled in erudition and education; and Nicholas Keian Fukunaga, who, as an 'ordinary' un-ordained Jesuit, managed to bear witness to the Gospel by his remarkable courage.

The stories of each one is quite moving, and you can read a brief account of their life at "All About Francis Xavier." The account is written by Fr. Fuyuki Hirabayashi, a Japanese Jesuit who was deeply involved in preparing documents related to the beatification.

A printed edition of Peter Kibe and 187 Companions, a book of 76 pages, compiled by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan and translated into English by Fr. Francis Mathy, S.J., a professional translator of several Shusaku Endo works, can be obtained from St. Ignatius Catholic Church (6-5-1 Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0083; Tel: 03-3263-4584 Fax: 03 3263-4585), for a token donation.

Jump 2 St.Ignatius Web
A book on the 188 Martyrs

The Tokyo Archdiocese has prepared small booklets related to the beatification in different languages. Here is the English booklet. For versions in Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese, visit:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sakthi Dancers and Sr. Chandra at Sophia

Based near Dindigul, in Tamil Nadu, India, Sakthi Dancers are a group of women whose goal is to conscientize the Tamil masses on matters related to social justice and social equality, with their music, songs, and dances. The group owes its origin to Sr. Chandra, a Catholic nun of the ICM [Immaculati Cordis Mariae ‘Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’] congregation. Invited by several Japanese volunteer organizations, Sr. Chandra is currently in Japan together with a colleague, Sr. Felicy; four male musicians, a folk-art researcher and photographer, and nine dancers—young and energetic like the freshmen of Sophia.

Sr.Chandra and Staff

The group has a series of engagements until November 21, as they are expected to perform almost every day in a different place. Sr. Chandra is also scheduled to receive an award for her humanitarian services on November 17th at Tokyo ANA Hotel (社会貢献支援財団「社会貢献賞」授賞式は11月17日ANAホテル10時).

The group’s visit to Sophia on November 7 was hastily arranged, and its primary goal was to give the dancers a glimpse of the Japanese academic world. As it was the first overseas trip to many of them, they were all excited to see students of their own age and observe the classrooms, offices, and the academic atmosphere of Sophia. Thanks to Sophia University’s PR office, each of them also received some simple memorabilia to take home.

Watch the trailer of Sakthi Dancers & Sr. Chandra

Although most Catholics in Japan may not have heard of Sr. Chandra, she has been known to several Christian and non-Christian volunteer groups in Japan, and some of them have been regular visitors to her Sakthi Dancing Center in India. One such visitor was Ms. Taeko Kurokawa, who has been to the Center annually for more than ten years and has introduced many other friends to Sr. Chandra and her dancers. She is also the chief host of the dancers during their visit to Japan. Another significant visitor to the Center was Mr. Kazu Matsui, who, being a cameraman, director, and movie producer, made a documentary on the work of Sr. Chandra (see his Japanese blog at: http:// 2008/10/post_6.html). Entitled Sakthi Dancers and Sister Chandra, this movie has won international acclaim, having already been awarded several prestigious prizes in such film festivals as 2008 Worldfest Houston (see downloads/winnerslist2008.pdf), and Heart of England International Film Festival (see

The November 7th evening edition of the Asahi Shimbun (Japanese Newspaper) carried a photo and a brief report about the group. The report contained the schedule of major events, a history of the group, and Sr. Chandra’s philosophy.

The Sakthi Dancers

An NHK presentation of Sr. Chandra and her dancing troupe is expected sometime this month. Those who cannot see their performance live may look forward to watching this presentation.

Here is the schedule of major events:

11 November (Tu) Two Performances (15:00 & 18:30) at Tokyo Women's Plaza
12 November (W) Two Performances (15:00 & 18:30) at Tokyo Women's Plaza

For further information regarding the Sakthi engagements:
Tel: 043-293-2828 FAX: 043-293-2869
E-Ticket PIA: (PCode:390-208)
Visit also:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Professor Emeritus Felix Lobo Passes Away

Lobo Reading, Britto 2004
Felix Lobo Reading [Photo: Francis Britto, 2004]

This morning, on the great feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, it was reported that Professor Emeritus Felix Lobo passed away. He was admitted to Seibo Hospital, Tokyo, about a month ago--when he celebrated his 82nd birthday--for some minor ailment, and some who saw him two days ago reported that he was his usual self, cheerful and upbeat. He seems to have passed away very quietly in the early morning hours today.

The photo above does not do justice to the 'happy-wolf' nature of Felix Lobo, who was always bublicious and vivacious. He was unceasingly energetic despite his body size, groomed to compete with that of St. Thomas Aquinas. Everyone I spoke with during the past thirty minutes (following the announcement of his death) immediately recalled at least one joke said by Felix. He enjoyed telling jokes and making people laugh. He was really 'felix' by nature and felt ever grateful to God, his friends, colleagues, students, and assistants for making him so happy.

A Dominican, a Franciscan, and a Jesuit die. When the Dominican enters heaven, there is no excitement or reception. Nobody even bothers to look at him. The Franciscan hopes for a better recognition, and he steps in oozing out confidence. But no luck! The poor Franciscan doesn't get any reception or notice either. Finally it's the turn of the Jesuit, who enters carefree like most Jesuits. As soon as he puts his foot into the heavenly territory, however, there is a loud applause and fireworks, and everyone comes around to congratulate him. The Franciscan and the Dominican are upset, and complain to St. Peter. And Peter says casually, "Oh, don't worry about it. Almost every Franciscan and every Dominican makes it to heaven as a matter of course, and we have lots and lots of them here. But as for Jesuits! Do you know that he is the first Jesuit after... oh, only God knows how many years! [A story the Jesuit Felix loved to tell.]

Felix was born in Segovia, Spain, on 4 September 1926. He was very proud of his ancient city, which has such landmarks as the Roman Aqueduct, Alcazar Castle [which, Felix pointed out, inspired Walt Disney], and a magnificent cathedral. When I visited him there in 1990, he took me around to all these sights and treated me to Cordero asado estilo Segovia and finally took me to a real village bodega to taste the local wine. He joined the Jesuits on 31 August 1943 and came to Japan in 1952 as a Jesuit missionary. Ordained a priest in 1959, he spent most of his life at Sophia University as a professor in the Spanish Language Department. After retirement, he kept himself busy writing language-learning materials and assisting in the Jesuit Parish of St. Ignatius. Although he was still active and healthy-looking, he moved of his own accord to the Loyola Retirement House in a suburb of Tokyo, about three years ago. It was perhaps a proper decision, for though he did appear healthy, he was becoming more and more forgetful and unable to keep track of appointments and names of persons. He was perhaps the only resident at Loyola House to appear always wearing a necktie and a jacket, looking more like a doctor than like a cared-for old man. Even when I visited him in September 2008, he was properly dressed in a three-piece suit and able to carry on a conversation--though he couldn't remember details about names or events. He was not totally incoherent either, for he was able to recall certain names or events or associate some names with one or two events.

Segovia Aqueduct [Wikipedia]

Besides being a priest, Felix was professionally a linguist, a psycholinguist. He did his doctoral studies at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and became a devoted student, friend, and admirer of Dr. Robert Lado. When he returned to Japan, he took an active part in boosting linguistic studies at Sophia University. In cooperation with several Japanese colleagues, such as the well-known scholars Akira Ota and Haruhiko Kindaichi, he re-organized the linguistics curriculum and established the graduate school of linguistics. In the 1970s, he was also well-known as a Spanish teacher on Japanese Educational TV channel. He served for many years, sometimes even simultaneously, as the Head of the Spanish Language Department, Head of the Graduate School of Linguistics, Head of SOLIFIC [SOphia Linguistic Institute For International Communication], and Head of the undergraduate section of Linguistics. He was also for many years one of the chief editors of Sophia Linguistica and several other linguistics-related and Spanish-related publications from Sophia.

Although Felix himself wrote few well-known treatises on linguistics, he was an able organizer, coordinator, stimulator and mentor. He was instrumental in bringing some of the most well-known linguists, such as Noam Chomsky, M. A. K. Halliday, Robert Lado, John Lyons, Ray Jackendoff, and David Crystal, to Sophia and several of his students are professors of linguistics in Japan. He also encouraged many Japanese colleagues and students to study overseas, and there are several Georgetown graduates in Japan, thanks to his PR for his alma mater. Many linguistic publications from Sophia University, especially prior to 1990 are likely to bear his name as one of the editors or authors. Some of the volumes he edited for learning English and for learning Spanish have been best-sellers and money-makers within Japan.

Segovia Alcazar

Felix was a cordial, warm, and affectionate person who elicited affection and love from the people he moved with. He was also very faithful to his friends and to those who did him favors, treating them to lavish luncheons and parties. He rarely forgot any good deed done to him, and he loved to praise every woman he met as 'the most beautiful and charming' and every man he met as 'the most talented in the world.' Perhaps the secret of his infectios felicity was his ability to feel thankful all the time, taking every good thing that happened to him as the result of God's and people's love for him.

Funeral Arrangements

Vigil Service: October 7 (Tue), 2008, 19:00 at St. Ignatius Church
Funeral Mass : October 8 (Wed), 2008, 13:30 at St. Ignatius Church
St. Ignatius Church is close to Sophia University, just one minute walking distance from Yotsuya Station, on JR Chuo Line, Subway Marunouchi line, and Subway Namboku line. Here's the access map.

10/10 Post Funeral

The Vigil service, lasting nearly 90 minutes, was officiated by Fr. Manuel Silgo, SJ, and the homily was preached by Fr. Thomas Eceizabarrena, SJ. St. Ignatius Church was nearly full. A large number of professors, alumni, Felix's students and friends were present. Although normally the corpse is placed in the church during vigil, in Felix's case, the corpse had been cremated earlier and only the ashes were kept. A large photo of a smiling Felix stood in front of the altar. The service ended with each one going to the front of the altar, bowing reverently, and then placing a few grains of incense at a small incense burner--a symbolic offering, replacing flower-offering.

The Funeral homily, the next day, was preached by Fr. Anselmo Mataix, SJ.
Some former students of Felix Lobo have decided to produce a book narrating how Professor Lobo influenced them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Second Coming of Jesuits to be Celebrated

Fr. Boucher, S.J.
October 18, 2008, will mark the 100th anniversary of the 'second' arrival of Jesuits in Japan, and the start of the plan to found Sophia University. On the request of Pope Pius X, three Jesuits arrived in Japan in 1908, to contribute as Catholic scholars to higher education. The realization of their dream was the founding of Sophia University in 1913. The three pioneering Jesuits were: Fr. Dahlman, Fr. Rockliff, & Fr. Boucher.

Fr. Dahlman
Various public events are planned for October 18, 2008, including musical performances by Canisius College Orchestra (Berlin Jesuit Gymnasium) and a special lecture by the well-known Japanese author, Catholic, and humanitarian Ms Ayako Sono. The events will take place in Bldg 10 Auditorium, starting at 15:30, and the admission is free, but reservation is required! Contact (03)3238-4161 for reservations.

Fr. Rockliff, S.J.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Three Jesuits Ordained Priests in Japan

There was an ordination ceremony this afternoon (20080920) at St. Ignatius Parish Church, next to Sophia University. Japan has only about half a million Catholics in a population of about 125 million; so it is extraordinary even if simply one Jesuit receives ordination per year. Miraculously, this year there were three Jesuits: a Japanese, an Indian, and an Indonesian.

The presiding bishop was Msgr Peter Okada Takeo of Tokyo. An unassuming, ascetic-looking bishop, he conducted the ceremnony with the required solemnity, as the choir of St. Ignatius Parish bathed the nearly 1,000 attendees in soothing music. About 50 priests concelebrated, including Fr. Sumita, the Jesuit Provincial of Japan; Fr. Karumathil, the Jesuit Provincial of Kerala; and several rectors, diocesan and religious priests of different orders. The gospel passage was Mk 16/14ff, calling on listeners to preach the gospel and baptize. The homily was surprisingly short, just about ten minutes, in which the bishop recalled the 188 Japanese martyrs who will be beatified soon and exhorted the newly ordained to live up to their calling.

Although the mass was at 14:00 and a wayward typhoon was threatening, the Church was full. As is common in Japan, but perhaps unthinkable in India and Christian countries, there were not only Cathoics but also non-Catholics at the ceremony. Non-Catholics in Japan can marry in Catholic Churches, and they eagerly attend Christmas masses, sometimes even waiting for an hour or two! In Japan, non-Catholics are allowed to join the procession of communicants and approach the altar, though they are told not to extend their palm to receive the host but to bow their head and receive the priest's blessings. So when his or her turn comes, a non-Catholic bows reverentially and the priest extends his hand and blesses the person, sometimes uttering words of encouragement.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Recalling Roger Downey ...

The Spring 2008 edition of Southeast Asia Program e-bulletin at Cornell University contained a very touching and personal tribute to Fr. Roger Downey, S.J., former professor of Economics at Sophia University, by his thesis supervisor, Professor Erik Thorbecke. As this tribute revealed several dimensions of Roger that were unknown to many of his colleagues in Japan, I asked Professor Thorbecke for permission to post it in this blog, and he readily granted it. My sincere thanks to him and the editorial staff of the e-Bulletin for helping me get the permission.


Roger Downey

8 January 1944 - 26 December 2007

In Memoriam: Vignettes of his life

I first met Roger when he enrolled in the PhD. Program in Economics at Cornell University. Typically graduate students converge on a dissertation topic only in their third year in Graduate School. But not Roger. Almost as soon as he had arrived at Cornell he approached me to ask me to be his thesis supervisor and he proceeded to tell me in some detail what the topic of his thesis was going to be.He is the only graduate student - out of the approximately eighty I supervised - who knew even before embarking on the doctoral program what his specific research interest were. Of course, when Roger moved to Cornell he was already a mature scholar with a deep grounding in theology, philosophy and Asia. As a Jesuit he was very much concerned with issues related to poverty and income distribution and he had decided that in order to help alleviate poverty he needed to acquire a technical competence in economics and economic development. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that he had selected Indonesia to be the focus of his dissertation research. He was planning to study the root causes of poverty and income inequality in Indonesia. Parallel to his economics studies he became fluent in Bahasa Indonesian and immersed himself in the rich activities of the Southeast Program at Cornell.

• • •

While a graduate student at Cornell, Roger lived in a Catholic parish about ten miles from campus where he assisted the priest- a very old and colorful Irishmanwith pastoral duties. On St Patrick day the Irish priest together with Roger would organize a party for the congregation to which we would be invited. Although Roger was always mindful of the need to maintain the right decorum, once he brought my wife over to an empty corner of the party room away from the crowd and proceeded to show her how proficient a dancer he was. He was careful that nobody would see him. Behind a serious exterior was hiding a “joie de vivre” always under control.

• • •

Close to the parish where Roger resided was a small lake with a row boat. One of Roger’s fellow graduate students at that time was Iwan Azis (today one of the leading Indonesian economists). Roger invited Iwan to row across the lake. When they reached the middle of the lake Iwan dropped his camera in the water and fell overboard. After a short while Roger realized that Iwan did not know how to swim and had to dive in the cold water to save Iwan’s life. (Incidentally Iwan who was also one of my students shares the same birthday as mine: February 17 which is also the date of the Memorial Mass in Roger’s honor. We shall think of him and pray for him on that day).

• • •

Just at about the time Roger had completed all of the course work for his PhD. and was ready to embark on writing his dissertation a very fortunate thing happened. The Dutch Ministry of Overseas Development was initiating a research and training program to help the Indonesian Statistical Bureau build a competence around the concept of the “Social Accounting Matrix” (SAM) that is crucial in understanding and measuring the inter-relationship among the structure of production, the incomes of different socio-economic groups, their consumption patterns and the satisfaction of basic needs. The SAM is a necessary quantitative and analytical tool to understand the root causes of poverty.

The Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands approached me to see if I (as one of the earlier architects of the SAM) would be interested in joining force with the ISS in preparing a proposal to be submitted to the Ministry. I immediately contacted Roger who expressed great interest in being involved. The proposal called for a small team of experts to be located at the Indonesian Statistical Bureau in Jakarta first for a three year period and subsequently renewable. The proposal jointly submitted (ISS and Cornell) was funded and Roger became the chief of party of a small group of experts. In retrospect the timing could not have been better. Just at the time Roger was ready to work on the topic he had focused on years earlier and which led him to pursue an advanced degree in Economics, destiny intervened with a golden opportunity.

• • •

As co-technical director of this project one of my duties was to prepare a budget including settling on a salary for Roger. Since Roger’s lifestyle was very modest and frugal and since he was planning to live in the Jesuit complex in Jakarta I, naively, assumed that he would be satisfied with a likewise modest salary. To my great surprise Roger proved to be a hard nosed and demanding negotiator requesting the remuneration that he thought befitted the position. My first reaction was that this behavior was not in keeping with Roger’s character but then I realized that I was wrong and that he was fully entitled to the market salary.
It is only years later that I heard that most of Roger’s salary if not all of it went to build a school in a remote part of Indonesia. Needless to say I learned a valuable lesson and felt guilty about my lack of sensitivity.

• • •

A key member of the team of experts working with Roger was a very young and very bright Dutch econometrician Steven Keuning. At regular intervals I would visit the team in Jakarta and have extensive discussions with the Indonesian statisticians at the Bureau. It was clear that although the SAM was a novel and esoteric concept very difficult for many Indonesians to grasp, Roger and his team were highly respected and valued. Roger was a most demanding taskmaster expecting perfection from himself (more on this later) and from his co-workers. Often Steven would be frustrated by Roger’s expectations but, in the process, he and others would learn and acquire the enormous discipline, commitment to hard work and patience required to deal with large scale date sets originating from often mutually inconsistent sources. Steven Keuning has had a brilliant career and is now the Chief Statistician for the European Central Bank- a most prestigious job. I can not, of course speak for Steven but I feel confident that his professional success in improving, promoting and disseminating the SAM world-wide owes a debt of gratitude to Roger’s at times tormenting demands. Likewise, the Indonesian statisticians and economists who were trained under the auspices of this project have the highest appreciation for what they learned from Roger, Steven and their successors. The SAM project lasted about ten years and propelled Indonesia as the leading producer of SAMs globally.

• • •

After spending a number of years in Indonesia, it became time for Roger to return to Cornell to complete his PhD dissertation. On the basis of the progress already achieved and the chapters that I had read I had estimated that Roger would easily be able to finish his dissertation in a couple of semesters. Roger and I would have bi-weekly meetings to go over his work. He always insisted that we go into the material very thoroughly and in its most minute details. Time after time, as his supervisor I was satisfied with his work but he was not. Time went on and the thesis got longer and longer- reaching over 700 pages in length (the average length of a dissertation in Economics is probably around 200 pages). I finally put my foot down and told Roger that his dissertation met the most stringent quality requirements and that he should put an end to it. Roger refused. It did not meet his standards and he insisted on proceeding. I may be stubborn but I simply could not compete with Roger’s stubbornness.

• • •

When it appeared that we were at a standstill and that Roger would continue indefinitely to refine his dissertation, destiny again intervened. His Jesuit superiors ordered him to move to a new assignment (as I recall in the Philippines). Where I had failed his order succeeded. Roger felt very frustrated but with no choice in the matter he let go of his dissertation- quite unsatisfied with it- and promptly was rewarded with the prize for the best dissertation on Southeast Asia (in all disciplines) at Cornell. Roger was such a perfectionist that nothing he wrote (and probably others as well) was ever good enough. This is undoubtedly the reason he, as a first class and mature scholar, published relatively little in his lifetime. However his influence on others is continuing to be strong and enlightening through what he taught those fortunate enough to have crossed his path during his (too) short but rich and intensive lifetime.

• • •

Erik Thorbecke, Fort Bragg, CA, February 13, 2008
First published in South Asia Program e-Bulletin at Cornell University

Thursday, May 22, 2008

D'Souza Debates Singer

On May 19, the Japan Times published an article by Peter Singer, an avowed atheist and professor at Princeton, about the debate he recently had with Dinesh D'Souza, the author of the bestseller What's so Great about Christianity. Dinesh was written about in this blog several months ago.

You can read the entire Singer article here.

Provoked to read it by a colleague, I read it, but I found it one-sided or biased as it is written by only one of the debaters. Although the article primarily deals with Singer's own views, one can see the bias in Singer's statements like the following: "In recent months, D'Souza has made a point of debating prominent atheists, but he, too, struggled to find a convincing answer to the problem I outlined above." Curious to examine further, I viewed the whole debate online, taking nearly two hours! I believe the debate itself is about 60 minutes and there is a long Q & A session.

Here I introduce the debate, which readers too can view online. The first segment given below is a direct video, showing the first nine minutes of the debate. Since there are 12 segments of the entire debate and Q&A, I simply paste the links to the other 11 segments. Feel free to explore each and follow the entire debate.

Although I don't want to spoil the excitement, I may point out that the purpose or focus of the debate is not explicitly stated... and that may be a key point. As those familiar with Singer know, he is a controversial figure. He was born of Jewish parents, acquired fame as the author of Animal Liberation, and is often criticized for his advocacy of liberal abortions, and even of infanticide and euthanasia. This is important to know, for you can see Dinesh trying repeatedly to draw him into a debate on these obviously provocative issues. His strategy was, perhaps, to show to the audience (at Biola, a Christian university) how Godlessness leads to unacceptable or murderous conduct. Singer, however, never falls into this trap and sets his own trap for Dinesh, by presenting the problem of Evil for Dinesh to face.

Video Segment 1: Debate Begins

Video Segment 2
Video Segment 3
Video Segment 4
Video Segment 5
Video Segment 6
Video Segment 7: Question & Answer Session begins
Video Segment 8: Q & A
Video Segment 9: Q & A
Video Segment 10: Q & A
Video Segment 11: Singer's Closing Comments
Video Segment 12: D'Souza's Closing Comments

For the enthusiastic, here is Dinesh's Blog.

Jesuits React to Peter Singer

On May 25, 2008, comments on the article of Singer made by William Johnston, a Jesuit and retired Sophia University professor, appeared in the Japan Times 'Readers in Council' section.
Johnston's main point is that Singer needs some exposure to Asian philosophy. Here is a section of what Johnston says:
If Singer would come to Japan and sit in silent, wordless meditation, he might eventually come to see that all is nothing, fullness is emptiness, God is and is not. The repetition of nothing ("mu" in Japanese) or emptiness ("ku" in Japanese) leads us to the reconciliation of opposites whereby we realize that everything is one and not one.

This knowing and not knowing, all and nothing, fullness and emptiness I also found in "The Cloud of Unknowing," written by a 14th-century English mystic who led me to see that I am one with the Absolute and not one. In today's word, we need dialogue with mystics and we can find this in dialogue with Asia.

You can read the whole letter of Johnston here.

A few days later, on May 29, there was a hilarious comment (also in the Japan Times 'Readers in Council') by a certain Greg Hutchinson of Sayama, Saitama, on what Johnston had written. After giving a brief overview of Johnston's comments, Hutchinson, added:
For people like me who are slow when it comes to the Truth and similar categories, Johnston adds that he is "one with the Absolute and not one." And so, it's safe to infer, are we all.

I would like to thank Johnston and not thank him, because his explanation was clear and not clear. (But with a smile.)

Another Jesuit, Fr. Peter Milward, reacted to Peter Singer's article as follows. As his reaction has not been published anywhere, I shall present the whole of it as he submitted it to me.

Why is there suffering?
May 20 2008

On reading the article of Peter Singer about the existence of suffering (in Japan Times, May 18), I had the feeling of what the French call déjà vu, and what the English call “old hat”. The arguments he trots out are as old as Epicurus (in Greek) and Lucretius (in Latin), and he may find them answered (in English) in Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590) and Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man (1734). It was no doubt after considering such arguments that the psalmist repeated his impression that “The fool has said in his heart, There is no god.” It was, however, the author of the Book of Job – as Singer himself recalls, though he puts the answer into the mouth of Dinesh D’Souza – who undertook to answer the fool.

In the Book of Job the answer is put into the mouth of God himself, and interestingly the answer is no answer. The God of Job, in his wisdom, does not undertake to answer the unanswerable, or to solve the insoluble. If the problem of suffering goes back into the dim mists of antiquity, and if it is still echoed by atheists like Singer and Dawkins, it is simply because no one has succeeded in giving it a satisfactory solution. Yet the majority of human beings – not only Christians, let me remind Singer – have always believed either in one God or at least in many gods, and for them this has always been an important object of their prayers. At the same time, while praying, they have to admit their insufficient knowledge of the universe which God impresses on Job in answer to his question. If we knew everything, we might know the answer to this question, but we don’t know everything – not even Dawkins or Singer know everything – and so we have to be content, like Newton in his famous saying about a boy playing on the seashore, with our ignorance.



Friday, April 18, 2008

Papal visit to USA

Photo Credit: "Christ our Hope"

The Pope's visit to USA is only a minor news item in Japan, where Catholics are a negligible minority, numbering just a few hundred thousands. So here let me introduce a few sites for those who may be interested in the Pope's visit to USA. Perhaps the best coverage is by the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) site: Christ our hope: Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Journey to the United States 2008. This whole site is dedicated to the Pope's US visit and gives many articles, the Pope's timetable, and many photos. There are also video clips, and the texts of all his speeches/addresses.

For Pope Benedict's major homilies and religious discourses since his election, go here.

Here's an interesting article on Notable moments in meetings of presidents and popes by Jennifer Loven. As suggested by the title, this article highlights the major meetings of the US Presidents and the Popes since the time of John Kennedy.

Here is an old address given on May 20, 2005, by George Bush, the US President, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which may be relevant to recall. The President here honors Catholic contributions to USA. The following paragraphs may be indicative of the jovial and serious nature of the address:

The Catholic contribution to American freedom goes back to the founding of our country. In 1790, a newly inaugurated George Washington -- the first George W. -- (laughter and applause) -- addressed a letter to all Catholics in America. He assured them that "your fellow citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution." I'm honored to stand before you to offer my gratitude for the work American Catholic sons and daughters are doing for our nation. This work includes the incredible acts of compassion through our faith-based institutions that help Americans in need, especially the Catholic schools that educate millions of our fellow citizens and deliver hope to inner-city children of all faiths. (Applause.)
... ...
When the French writer, de Tocqueville, visited these shores back in the 1830s, he noted that the most democratic country in the world was also the one where the Catholic religion was making the most progress. He called Catholics the most faithful believers in our land, yet also the most independent of citizens. (Laughter.) As I've learned from dealing with Senator Santorum. (Laughter and applause.)
... ...
Catholics have made sacrifices throughout American history because they understand that freedom is a divine gift that carries with it serious responsibilities. Among the greatest of these responsibilities is protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. That was the message that Pope John Paul II proclaimed so tirelessly throughout his own life, and it explains the remarkable outpouring of love for His Holiness at the funeral mass that Laura and I were privileged to attend in Rome.

See also the various Catholic News resources in the right column of links and feeds.

The article "A Catholic Wind in the White House" by Daniel Burke was published in the Washington Post on April 13, 2008, and reprinted in an English newspaper from Japan. This is the article that speaks of Bush's Catholic leanings:

As the White House prepares to welcome Benedict on Tuesday, many in Bush's inner circle expect the pontiff to find a kindred spirit in the president. Because if Bill Clinton can be called America's first black president, some say, then George W. Bush could well be the nation's first Catholic president.

This isn't as strange a notion as it sounds. Yes, there was John F. Kennedy. But where Kennedy sought to divorce his religion from his office, Bush has welcomed Roman Catholic doctrine and teachings into the White House and based many important domestic policy decisions on them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Complete autobiography of Peter Milward now online

The complete autobiography of Peter Milward, Genesis of an Octogenarian, is now online. You may add your comments, remarks, or review by clicking the Comments button below. You may simply enter your name or nickname. No need to enter your email address or other personal details.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Rare photos of the new Jesuit General Fr. Adolfo Nicolas

Here are some rare photos of the newly elected General Superior of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas,S.J., taken around the time he was ordained. He was ordained priest on March 17, 1967, with fellow Jesuits Fr. William Currie & Fr. Anzorena at St. Ignatius Parish, near Sophia University, Tokyo, by the then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Shirayanagi. The photo prints are from the carefully kept collection of Fr. Currie, S.J., the previous President of Sophia University, currently teaching in the Philippines. The photos were digitized and sliced by this blogger, Sophian.

Fr. Nicolas holding a handmade gift like a trophy!
(c) Jesuits of Japan, 2008

Newly Ordained Fr. Nicolas in 1967
(c) Jesuits of Japan, 2008

Fr. Nicolas as a young Jesuit Scholastic in formation
(c) Jesuits of Japan, 2008

Fr. Nicolas and Fr. Currie in Jesuit Theologate, Kamishakujii, Tokyo
(c) Jesuits of Japan, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sophia Jesuit Vladimir Kos to speak at 40th International PEN Assembly

Vladimir Kos (photo (c) BriFrancis)

Hardly anyone around Sophia University could have guessed that this simple, unassuming old man trudging in and out of Sophia frequently is to speak at the 40th Internation PEN Writers' meet to be held in Bled, Slovenia, towards the end of March 2008. Yes, Fr. Vladimir Kos, a Jesuit priest, ardent missionary, committed social worker, and retired professor is also a well-known poet, having already published more than ten acclaimed books of poems in his mother tongue, Slovenian. Even most of his Jesuit brothers at Sophia are not aware of his status and stature as a poet since he rarely speaks about the accolades he has received and, unfortunately, all his poems are in a language that nobody around here understands--except him!

Professor Alenka Zbogar, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, writes about him as follows:
Vladimir Kos, who comes from Murska Sobota, is a professor at Sophia University (Tokyo) and a missionary to a poor suburb of Tokyo. According to Lev Detela, he is one of the most original, qualitative, and productive writers of Slovene migration. We can claim that his diction in poetry is individualistically sharpened: he transforms some forms, and his language is modern. Vladimir Kos is also known as a writer of short stories and a publicist. In Slovenia he has published a book of essays, Eseji z japonskih otokov, and a selection of poems, Cvet, ki je rekel Nagasaki.

The Slovenian Wikipedia has an entry on him with a list of his publications, though with limited biographical data.

In the section of Eastern European Literature, Britannica Book of the Year 1999 identifies Vladimir Kos's Cvet ki je rekel Nagasaki: izbrane pesmi as one of the "two collections of poetry [that] stood out."

It's a pity that no-one nearby can read and appreciate Kos' poems, but the remarks of the Slovenian literati seem to suggest Kos is a significant contributor to Slovenian literature.

Kos is scheduled to leave Japan around Good Friday and return after rubbing shoulders with the academic elite--only to continue his humble work of serving the poor in a Tokyo suburb.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brittonia Article Plagiarized!

Although I've seen several extracts from my report here about Fr. Nicolas, some with clear reference to this blog and some without, for the first time I see almost the entire article stolen by some Indian publication called Navhind Papers & Publications Ltd., which has printed my essay without any attribution or credit to this source. You can see the plagiarized article, without any credit to this blog or my authorship, here: and my original article here. Apparently they have done a very quick job of stealing. I posted the first version of my blog on January 19, 2008, and their plagiarized copy is dated January 21, 2008! Well, someone said "Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery," but I wonder whether being plagiarized too is a form of flattery. At any rate, it's quite disappointing and painful to see what looks like a decent newspaper from Panaji, Goa, stealing from someone's blog in Japan. Or are Indians still so backward as not to know what constitutes plagiarism? Getting a few facts from other sources and using them in an original blog entry seems somewhat acceptable; but for a newspaper to steal the entire article from someone's blog seems a bit over the limit and dishonorable. Perhaps there are many other more illustrious bloggers who are continually ripped off?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Autobiography of Peter Milward (1 - 25)

PMGenesis 1
The first twenty-five chapters of Genesis of an Octogenarian, the autobiography of Peter Milward, are now available. Here's the entrance. Milward's most recent episode narrates the adventures of his sabbatical in 1988, teaching in Baltimore and visiting various cities ... There are only six more chapters left!

William Johnston

Note the links to some books of Peter Milward and to some of William Johnston, the well-known authority on mysticism and translator of Endo Shusaku's Silence. You can easily order the books by clicking the links and visiting an online bookstore. Both Milward and Johnston are Jesuits and retired professors of Sophia University.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Genesis of an Octogenarian 1, 2, 3 & 4

At last, I'm glad to report that the first fourchapters of Peter Milward's autobiography, Genesis of an Octogenarian, are ready. The digital version is on a dark background with white letters, which some consider helpful to online readers. At any rate, I'm also preparing a PDF version, which I hope I can make available one of these days. Meanwhile enjoy reading Peter's birth and childhood in remote London.

Here is the door to PMGenesis, Peter Milward's Genesis of an Octogenarian.

For various reasons, if you wish to link to Peter's autobiography or recommend it to anyone, please use the URL of this Blog rather than the URL of PMGenesis. The PMGenesis URL may disappear or move, but hopefully the URL of this Blog will remain longer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Autobiography of Peter Milward

There is perhaps hardly any experienced English language teacher in Japan who has not heard of Peter Milward. Long before the current invasion of EFL teachers with TESOL licenses, Peter Milward was one of the most popular English teaching experts in Japan. As an Englishman with a degree from Oxford and committed to teaching in Japan, he was a most sought-after speaker, writer, and teacher. He is a prolific writer, and nearly 300 of his books have been published in Japan as reading material for English language learners; there is another set of about 100 books that are more academic, religious, or scholarly intended for general audience. He is also a frequent poster in the Tablet and several English-language newspapers and magazines of Japan. His Letters to the Editor are always sure to draw several other letters, often contesting his opinions.

Professor Milward is now retired from Sophia University, but still continues his academic career. His laptoc PC is rarely turned off during the day, and he is typing away more and more books and articles. One of his latest productions is his autobiography, entitled Genesis of an Octogenarian. It will be interesting not only to thousands of his former students and academic colleagues, but also to all those who want to know the story of Japan as seen by foreigners.

With Peter's generous permission, I am hoping to bring out his "Genesis" on the Web, chapter by chapter. Although it will be stored at a temporary server, a link will be offered here as each chapter gets ready.

Here in this first installment, let me offer Peter's CV, as he himself has presented it.

Peter Milward

Jesuit Priest. Emeritus Professor of Sophia University, Tokyo. Director, Renaissance Institute, Tokyo.

Born in London, 1925. Educated at Wimbledon College, 1933-43. Entered Society of Jesus, 1943. Studied Philosophy at Heythrop College, Oxon, 1947-50, Classics and English Literature at Campion Hall, Oxford, 1950-54. BA 1954, MA 1957. Came to Japan, 1954. Studied Theology at St. Mary’s College, Kami-Shakujii, Tokyo, 1957-61. Joined faculty of Literature, Sophia University, 1962. On retiring from Sophia in 1996, Dean of Faculty of Culture, Tokyo Junshin Women’s College, 1996-2000.

Specializing in Shakespearian drama, published first book An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Plays (1964), followed by Christian Themes in English Literature (1967). After year’s research at the Shakespeare Institute, Birmingham University, 1965-66, published Shakespeare’s Religious Background (1973), and as result of series of lectures at Campion Hall, Oxford, Biblical Themes in Shakespeare(1973). After further research at the Huntington Library, California, published two companion volumes on The Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age (1977) and The Religious Controversies of the Jacobean Age (1978). From the Renaissance Institute, Tokyo, published monographs on Biblical Influence in the Great Tragedies (1985) and Shakespeare’s Other Dimension (1987), followed by three more monographs jointly with the Saint Austin’s Press, London, on The Catholicism of Shakespeare’s Plays (1997), The Simplicity of the West (1998), and Shakespeare’s Apocalypse (2000). Also from the Renaissance Institute published two companion volumes, Shakespeare’s Meta-drama, Part I on Hamlet and Macbeth (2002) and Part II on Othello and King Lear (2003). From Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, Florida, published Shakespeare the Papist (2005), Jacobean Shakespeare (2007), and Elizabethan Shakespeare (2008).
Published many other books and articles on GM Hopkins, TS Eliot, JH Newman, GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, in addition to some 300 books of essays for Japanese students in English and Japanese. In addition to the Renaissance Institute, founded GK Chesterton Society of Japan, GM Hopkins Society of Japan, and founding member of Thomas More Society of Japan, CS Lewis Society of Japan, besides being long-time member of the English Literary Society of Japan, the Shakespeare Society of Japan.

Interests. 4 P’s, poems, proverbs, paradoxes and puns especially in Japanese, 2 F’s, fauna and flora in England and English literature, 2 more P’s, pilgrimages to England, Europe, the Holy Land, and all provinces (in Japan, from Okinawa to Hokkaido, in short, “all things counter, original, spare, strange”, such as idiosyncrasies in human beings, especially English and Japanese.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nico-Nico Nicolas will be obedient...

Fr. Nicolas having an audience with the Pope. Photo from Jesuit Headquarters.

[Have you noticed that in almost all the photos, Fr. Nico-las is smiling? In Japanese we say of a smiling face nico nico!]

Since his election as the General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas has been covered widely by the mass media, and there are now articles on him in Wikipedia, Time, New York Times, etc., etc. Overall he is rated favorably for his erudition, cheerfulness, missionary experience, and maturity. Most people who know him personally in Japan too think that he will do an excellent job.

There is also a section of Catholic netizens who are alarmed or worried about his election. These are the same ones who are alarmed and worried about persons like Jon Sobrino, Jacques du Puis, Roger Haight, Anthony de Mello, Balasurya, Bermejo, Phan, and such theologians. Obviously they expect Jesuits to be not only obedient, but also docile, cooperative, non-confrontational, and traditional. Although I don't like to direct readers to some extravagant Jesuit accusers, here is one that is, shall I say, moderately accusatory. A certain Samuel Gregg, writing for the National Review on January 25, sets his theological tone by saying, '"the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity . . . and the resurrection of Jesus." These are hardly debatable subjects for Catholics.' Then he praises the achievements of the Jesuits throughout history... with an unpleasant truth.

The Jesuits, after all, played a major role in the Counter-Reformation that rolled back Protestantism's frontiers in Europe. For almost 500 years they have imparted a superb education to thousands of people. Famous Jesuit alumni include Cervantes, Descartes, de Gaulle, Moliere, and Scalia ? as well as Castro, Diderot, and Voltaire.

The Jesuits themselves were no intellectual slouches. In How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, Thomas Woods notes that Isaac Newton counted Jesuits as among his most prized scientific correspondents. Thirty-five lunar craters are named after Jesuit mathematicians and scientists. Jesuits helped identify key concepts underlying market economics 200 years before Adam Smith.

These are no small achievements. Yet it's hard to deny today's Jesuits are in trouble. In raw numbers, the Jesuits have dropped from 36,000 in 1965 to about 19,000 today.

Then he goes into criticizing Jesuits like Sobrino and Haight, and expressing his evaluation of Nicolas as follows.
In his first homily as Jesuit Father-General this past Sunday, Nicolas did little to assuage fears that muddled theology remains ascendant in the Society of Jesus: "In this globalized world of ours the number of those excluded by all is increasing," the new Father-General intoned, "since our society only has room for the big and not the small."

More troubling than this 1970s boilerplate, Nicolas seemed to imply that the order would seek to further relativize the gospel to accommodate non-Christians: "[W]hat is the color, the tone, the image of salvation today for those many people who are in need of it, those human non-geographic nations that demand salvation." He's off to an inauspicious start.

Gregg is just one example of the concerned. Providentially, on the same day, the National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe and Catholic News published articles to assure the world that the new Jesuit General will be humbly obedient to the Pope. The interesting article in CNS begins:

The obedience, affection and common mission binding the Society of Jesus to the pope are solid, unchanging and the reason why differences can be so painful, said the new superior general of the Jesuits.

Father Adolfo Nicolas, elected Jan. 19 to head the world's largest Catholic men's order, told reporters, "The Society of Jesus has always been, from the beginning, and always will be in communion with the Holy Father, and we are happy to be so."

Meeting journalists Jan. 25, he said, "If there are difficulties, it is precisely because we are so close."

Like a married couple, he said, the Jesuits and the pope are bound to one another and committed to working together for the good of the church and the world.

"Only those who love each other can hurt each other," he said.

As to the existence of any personal tension between him and the Pope, the article reports the following:

"The Society of Jesus wants to cooperate with the Vatican and obey the Holy Father. This has not and will not change. We were born in this context, and this is the context that will determine our decisions," the superior said....

Other newspapers, he said, have tried to imply that there is "a theological distance between me and (Pope) Benedict XVI," when, in fact, Father Nicolas' theological studies included the then-Father Joseph Ratzinger's textbooks, which "were very interesting and had a newness and an inspiration that all of us recognized."

"The distance is a theory in the imagination of those who have written it," the superior general said.

This is a highly readable article and will assure those who worry about Nico's orthodoxy. The article also reports on how Nico was influenced by Japan and the East. The concluding paragraph must be quoted:

Father Nicolas said he hoped the Jesuits would follow the principles of Mohandas Gandhi, "who said that when you speak of something you must first ask, 'Is it true?' because if it is not true, then it is not interesting. Second, 'Is it gentle, charitable, kind?' and third, 'Is it good for others?'"
Read the full article here.

The NCRCafe article by John Allen covers the same ground in a more dramatic way.
Writing under the title "New Jesuit leader: Theology is a dialogue, but we will obey," Allen reports:

"The Society of Jesus from the very beginning has always been in communion with the Holy Father, and it will continue to be," Nicolas said. Referring to impressions of a split between the order and the Vatican, Nicolas said this is "an artificial tension that comes from outside of us."...
"We want to collaborate with the Holy See and to obey the Holy Father," Nicolas said. "That has not changed, and it will not change. This is the context in which we will make decisions."

In a similar spirit, Nicolas also rejected reports of any theological tension between himself and Pope Benedict XVI.

"This is false," he insisted, saying that as a young theology student he read the books of then-Professor Joseph Ratzinger.

"There was a newness, an exhilaration that engaged all of us" in Ratzinger's writings, Nicolas said. "Any distance [between himself and Benedict] is more theoretical in the minds of those who imagine it," he said.

This highly interesting artilce too has a lengthy presentation of Nico's views on Japan and Asia, and how he was changed as a result of his experiences here.

"I believe that Asia changed me, I hope for the better," Nicolas said. "I came to better understand others, to accept what's different about them, trying to understand these differences and what we can learn from them."

"This may be hard for you to believe, but in Spain I was a little intolerant," Nicolas said. "Religion was understood as fidelity to a series of practices, and I was very demanding."

"In Japan, I saw that true religiosity goes deeper … I learned to smile at differences that in Spain would have made me very nervous. I also learned that imperfection is natural, and we have to accept it on principle."

"For the Japanese, it's often a scandal that we are so intolerant, not accepting of differences," he said. "This is a challenge for us."

"Asia is a challenge for the universal church," he said. "Asia can give us much," later citing especially the "deep humanism" of the region.

You can read the entire article here, at NCR Conversation Cafe

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fr Adolfo Nicolás, S. J. Elected the New General of Jesuits

Taking the Oath of Office
Fr. Nicolas, the newly elected Black Pope, taking the Oath of Office. Photo Credit: Fr. Dan Doll, S.J., Jesuit Curia, Rome.

Surprise! Surprise!

For the second time, a former Provincial (regional head) of the Jesuits of Japan has been elected the General of the nearly 20,000 Jesuits worldwide. The Jesuit General, known also by the ambiguous title of 'the Black Pope', is the supreme head of all the Jesuits. Fr. Adolfo Nicolas was the Provincial Superior of Japan (1993-1999), following the footsteps of the colossal Pedro Arrupe, who too served as the Provincial of Japan and later became the General of the Jesuits. Given his age, a little over 70, some felt he may not be elected, but the delegates in Rome seemed to have thought otherwise. After stepping down as Provincial, Fr. Nicolas held various offices until he became, in 2004, the President of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania (JCEAO), with headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines. It was as the President of JCEAO that he attended the General Congregation.

Fr. Nicolas was born in Palencia, Spain, on April 29, 1936, and entered the Society of Jesus in Aranjuez at the tender age of 17, in 1953. Like most Jesuit missionaries who came to Japan, he finished his noviciate (first stage of training as a Jesuit) and philosophate in Spain, and then arrived in Japan to dedicate himself to the Japanese mission. After Japanese studies and some teaching, he began theological studies at Sophia University in 1964. Ordained priest on March 17, 1967, he took his final vows--the vows that Jesuits take to be completely incorporated into the Society of Jesus--on October 5, 1976. He is a theologian by profession, having done his advanced theological studies at the Gregorian University Rome (1968-1971), and his major topics of research have been related to dogmatic and systematic theology.

After his return from Rome, he became a professor of theology in the Faculty of Theology at Sophia University (1971), but within a few years was called upon to lead the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI) in Quezon City, Philippines. The EAPI describes its mission as "striving to witness to a new way of being Church" in Asia. His term of office at EAPI (1978-1984) was a resounding success as he brought in bright professors and students from different parts of Asia to build a theological and spiritual network among the Asian Christians. Having achieved a reputation for leadership, Fr. Nicolas has since held several significant positions. He became the Rector of the Jesuit Theologate in Kamishakujii, a suburb of Tokyo, in 1991; the Jesuit Provincial of Japan in 1993; and the President of JCEAO in 2004.

Fr. Nicholas being congratulated by a delegate. Photo credit: Jesuit Headquarters, Fr. Dan Doll, S.J.

Fr. Nicolas is an active theologian renowned for his insightful articles, books, sermons, retreats, and lectures, especially among the Asian Christians and the Spaniards. Two of his outstanding books in Japanese are: 希望の地平-現代における修道生活の意義 [kibou no chihei--gendaini okeru shuudouseikatsu no igi] 'The Horizon of Hope: Meaning of Religious Life in Contemporary Times' (Tokyo: Joshi Paulokai [Paulist Sisters' Press], 1976) and ゆるしの秘跡 [Yurushi no Hiseki] 'The Sacrament of Penance' (Tokyo: Joshi Paulokai [Paulist Sisters' Press], 1977). Among his numerous articles is this one addressing the burning issue of Christianity in Asia: "Which Asia? Which Christinaity? Which Crisis?" (Concilium (2005/3), 64-70).

Fr. Nicolas is a cheerful and optimistic person, not to mention well-versed in theology and spirituality. He first came to Japan in 1961 and has spent most of his time since then in Japan and the Philippines. He is fluent in Spanish, English, Japanese, and several other European languages. As a professor of theology, he is quite familiar with the current religious crises confronting the Church and the Society, and as a former Provincial of Jesuits in Japan, he has the experience of facing major challenges. Fr. Nicolas has shown special interest in helping the poor, immigrants, and refugees, and has personally spent three years, after completing his term as the Provincial, working for immigrant laborers in Japan. At least in Japan, most Bishops know him well as he was a professor of theology, teaching both at Sophia University and at the Tokyo diocesan seminary, and has served as a theological consultant to several of them. Given his ever-smiling personality, he has always been popular with young Jesuits, and most seniors too admire him for his intellect and common sense.

The New and the Old? Fr. Nicolas greeted by the retiring Fr. Kolvenbach Photo Credit: Fr. Dan Doll, S.J., Jesuit Curia, Rome.

As he was both a student and professor at Sophia University, all of us at Sophia University wish him well and hope he will guide the Jesuits masterfully to face the future with courage and confidence.

The official announcement from Rome concerning his election is as follows:

Father Adolfo Nicolás new Superior General

Father Adolfo Nicolás was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus on Saturday, 19 January in a solemn ceremony following four days of prayer and conversation by the 217 electors who came to Rome from all over the world.

Coincidences: Professor Masashi Masuda, currently in the Faculty of Theology, Sophia University, points out the interesting fact that Fr. Nicolas was born in 1936, the year of the Rat, the same year in which the current Prime Minister of Japan, Yasuo Fukuda, was also born--and this year, 2008, also happens to be a Year of the Rat.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fined for joking about "Ten Commandments"

Cartoon (c) Mike Graston [The Windsor Star, Ontario], used with his permission.

Yes, a TV Station has been fined for joking about the Ten Commandments--no, not the Ten Commandments, but the Ten Commandments of Driving issued by Church authorities!

According to CNA, the Catholic News Agency, a Slovakian TV station has been fined the hefty sum of $88,400 "for making fun of a Vatican document on Christian driving." The CNA report gives no example of how the station made fun of the document, but the program seems to have pointed out that the priests were incompetent to give advice on driving and that Vatican was too tiny a place to give any resident adequate driving experiences. I never imagined there were countries where making "fun of a Vatican document" was punishable! Read the story here.

The so-called "Ten Commandments for Drivers" that landed the Slovakian TV station into trouble is included in the lengthy DOCUMENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLE: "GUIDELINES FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE ROAD," dated 19.06.2007. The relevant section, 61, of the document is as follows:
[start quote]

61. In any case, with the request for motorists to exercise virtue, we have drawn up a special “decalogue” for them, in analogy with the Lord’s Ten Commandments. These are stated here below, as indications, considering that they may also be formulated differently.

I. You shall not kill.
II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
IV. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.
V. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
VI. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
VII. Support the families of accident victims.
VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
IX. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
X. Feel responsible towards others.

[end quote]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jesuits in Rome: Looking for a Leader

Fr. Sumita and Fr. Kolvenbach
Fr. Sumita, the Japanese Provincial, and Fr. Kolvenbach, the General, during the latter's visit to Sophia University in 2005

Two hundred and twenty-five Jesuit representatives or delegates from around the world are currently gathered in Rome for the historical 35th General Congregation (GC 35) of the Society of Jesus. Some of these are representatives elected by their peers, but many are regional officials of the Order. Their average age is around 56. There are 75 delegates from Europe, 43 from South Asia. 40 from Latin America, 30 from North America, 18 from Africa, and 19 from East Asia and Oceania.

This particular Congregation, GC 35, is unique because for the first time in the history of the Jesuits, the incumbent General will solemnly resign and let another man take charge. The Jesuits have always had their General serve until his death, but in recent times they have considered allowing him to retire after a certain age. When the previous General, Pedro Arrupe, wanted to retire, he was stopped from doing so, but later on an incapacitating stroke and the Papal intervention gave him a providential break to get his wish. For all we know, the current General, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, is in good health despite being close to 80 and seems capable of governing for several more years. Sensing the signs of the times, however, he has proposed stepping down in favor of a younger man, and the Pope has approved his plan.

The election of a new General will be the first task of the assembling delegates. There are speculations about the 'Generabili' as there are, after a Pope's death, about the 'Papabili'. A recent issue of the Catholic magazine Tablet gives the names of Fr. Lisbert D'Souza and Fr. Devados, both Indians, and Fr. Mark Raper, an Australian, as potential candidates. Several others, especially Fr. Mark Rotsaert of Holland and Fr. Elias Royon of Spain, too are often mentioned. Whoever is elected, however, must be approved by the Pope first, before his name is released to the public. Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, a former Provincial of Japan and the current President of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia, has also been rumored to be a candidate, but as he is past 70, he may be considered too old.

There are two delegates from Japan: Fr. Shogo Sumita, the Provincial of Japan, and Fr. Renzo de Luca, until recently the head of the 26 Martyrs' Shrine, in Nagasaki. Both are graduates of Sophia University, Tokyo.

The Congregation was convened nearly two years ago, on Feb 2, 2006, by Fr. Kolvenbach, the incumbent General. A preparatory commission, with 14 members, was set up in February 2007. The delegates have been arriving in Rome since early January 2008, and the Congregation officially opened on January 7, 2008, with a solemn Mass at 4:30 PM. The delegates are expected to engage in 'murmuratio' for a few days before the election day so that they get to know each other and make up for themselves whom to vote. No canvassing for votes or promotion of self is permitted, and a specially set-up committee has been entrusted with the task of spotting anyone who fails to toe the line.

There is no time limit for how long the GC will take place; it is up to the members to fix their own schedule. Usually, though, it lasts less than two months. In modern times, GC 31 was the exceptional one, as it lasted for 141 days and held twice, once in 1965 and again in 1966.

In GC 35, electronic gadgets are expected to be used much. Public voting will all be done electronically, and simultaneous translation will be available. A professional Jesuit photographer will be the official photographer. The primary languages used at the Congregation will be English, French, Italian, & Spanish.

Whoever is elected, he is sure to face many challenges, like the shortage of vocations, the dwindling number of total strength (from an impressive 36,000 in 1964 to less than 20,000 in 2008), keeping good relations with the Vatican, and so on. The future of institutions like Sophia University too may depend on his leadership!