Adolfo Nicolàs says farewell to the Jesuit curia in Rome leaving warm hearts and grateful memories
It is Wednesday February 15th in Rome. At 9am the air is still chilly but the sky is blue - a promise of warmth later in the day. The Jesuit community of the curia has gathered at the front door, along with lay collaborators, to say goodbye to Father Adolfo Nicolás. He is leaving Rome after over 8 years of service as Superior General. He embraces each of us in turn, offering a word of encouragement or sharing a special memory. He lingers somewhat longer to speak with and to embrace his successor, Arturo Sosa.
Then he turns, waves goodbye, gets into a modest car and heads off to Fiumicino airport. He is on his way to Manila. It is the next phase of his Jesuit journey.
So much has happened since Adolfo Nicolàs took office in January 2008: his emphasis on creativity linked to depth; his exhortation to avoid distractions; his letter on restructuring Provinces; his stress on team building in the Curia; his wisdom; his unique formation coming from a blend of early life in Spain with later years spent in the East; his love of the poor; all of this is remembered fondly in the Curia and, indeed across the world.
During his Generalate, perhaps the biggest change in the Church and in the Society, was the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis. Overnight, we had a Pope who used Ignatian terminology; who promoted discernment; who lived simply; who loved the poor; who spoke ordinary language.
Pope Francis related easily and with affection to Adolfo Nicolás. That affection was visible when the Holy Father came to visit the Curia on Sunday 12th February for a farewell lunch for Adolfo Nicolás. It was a simple affair: no big speeches except for a moving tribute from Joaquín Barrero, the local Superior. The Pope wanted to come and honour this man with whom he had journeyed over the last number of years and with whom he had built up a strong relationship of trust and affection.
Many of us were profoundly moved as we thought of the service Adolfo Nicolàs – Nico to his friends from Asia - had given. We knew the personal cost it had taken. We appreciated the way in which he had led the Society with humour, with generosity and, above all, with love.
We wish him well as he takes up a new life in Manila. Ad multos annos.
John Dardis SJ