Rome — The Jesuits, a 440-year-old religious order formally known as the Society of Jesus, have elected the Rev. Peter Hans Kolvenbach as their new leader. A multilingual scholar of Dutch origin, Fr. Kolvenbach is known to have a particularly deep knowledge of Eastern and Western politics both inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church, reports Monitor contributor Janet Stobart.
The Jesuits have been sharply rebuked by the last three Popes for lack of discipline and a tendency to interpret the Jesuit mission in a temporal rather than spiritual context, especially in countries ruled by dictators. Just before the election, Pope John Paul II called on the Jesuits to exercise their mission ''without confusing the tasks proper to priests with those that are proper to lay people.''
In this respect, Fr. Kolvenbach is seen by many observers as a choice that will please both his religious brothers and the Pope himself. He is not classified either as a revolutionary or a conservative, and ''he appears to be moderate and careful in his judgments,'' said an observer here.