Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 28, 2008
New Jesuit leader stresses dialogue, outreach to the poor
Spaniard will bridge diverse cultures in the Church
By CINDY WOODEN
"He is inspirational, he is holy and he represents a great bridge among the various cultures in the Church."
- Fr. Thomas Smolich
The Jesuit served as theological adviser to the Japanese bishops attending the 1998 Synod of Bishops for Asia.
Some Vatican officials had been surprised during the synod when the Japanese bishops and many other participants urged the Vatican to demonstrate greater respect for their knowledge of their local languages and cultures, particularly when it came to approving the translation of liturgical texts and aspects of local culture in Catholic prayer.
Several Jesuits in Rome confirmed that the Jesuits had wanted to name Nicolas rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1998, but his name was withdrawn in the wake of the synod discussions.
Interviewed in December about his hopes for the work of the general congregation, Nicolas said, "I have a feeling, still imprecise and difficult to define, that there is something important in our religious life that needs attention and is not getting it.
"We have certainly been diligent in addressing our problems whenever we have seen them," he said, noting the focus of past general congregations, "but the uneasiness in the society and in the Church has not disappeared."
Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States, told Catholic News Service that Nicolas "is a great man. He is inspirational, he is holy and he represents a great bridge among the various cultures in the Church."
Smolich said although Nicolas is 71, "he has the energy of a much younger man."
In a Jan. 10 letter to the Jesuits, Pope Benedict asked them to reaffirm their "total adhesion to Catholic doctrine," particularly regarding interreligious dialogue and various aspects of sexual morality.
Smolich said, "I do not think there was a cause-and-effect relationship, but we have chosen one of the premiere men in the society" in the field of relations between Christianity and other religions.
"He can work intimately with the pope and the Vatican on this very issue," the Jesuit said.
Although born in Spain, Nicolas was sent to Japan before his ordination to study theology. He was ordained in Tokyo in 1967 and has since served the Jesuits in East Asia in a variety of leadership roles.
He also spent three years working in a poor immigrant parish in Tokyo, living with and ministering to Filipino and other Asian immigrants.
Nicolas speaks Spanish, Japanese, English, French and Italian.
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