20 Jan 2008

The New "Black Pope"

The Jesuits were once such a powerful force in the Roman Catholic Church that their elected leader was unofficially called the "black pope" a nod both to his influence and to the order's predeliction for simple black cassocks. Indeed, it is said that the rest of the Church never allowed a Jesuit to be elected to the real papacy for fear of concentrating too much power in the hands of the order. On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Society of Jesus — the order's formal name — elected a new "black pope." Will he be able to help them regain the influence they've lost over the last few decades as their increasingly progressive reputation has clashed with recent traditionalist popes?

The gathering of 217 Jesuit leaders in Rome chose little-known Father Adolfo Nicolas, 71, as their new "Superior General", a position which has historically been a lifetime posting. The leader of the Jesuits has sway over a network of priests, universities, hospitals and other missionary institutions around the globe. Though there was no real white smoke to alert the world that they'd found a new leader, as there is in the conclave of Cardinals that elects the Pope, the vote is nonetheless a sacred and secret affair. An oath of loyalty is recited before the balloting, and tradition holds that all voting members remain closed in the hall after a decision is reached, while a single messenger brings the name of the new leader to the Pope, who must be the first non-Jesuit to get the news.

Will the New "Black Pope" Work? - TIME

Spaniard becomes Jesuits' new "black pope"