BORN IN BILBAO, the largest city of the Spanish Basque Country, in 1907, Pedro Arrupe trained as a doctor, but after witnessing miraculous cures at Lourdes he decided to become a healer of souls instead: he joined the Society of Jesus in 1927.
Sent to Japan, the outbreak of the Second World War saw him placed in solitary confinement and interrogated, suspected of being an American spy. He wrote: "I believe that this was the month that I learned the most in all my life." Father Arrupe was just two miles from the centre of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped in August 1945. His medical skills relieved the suffering of many, and he was to describe that event as "a permanent experience outside of history, engraved on my memory."
However, the greatest work of Father Arrupe's life was yet to come. In 1965, he was elected Father General of the Society of Jesus, in charge of 36,000 men worldwide. At the time the Jesuits were the largest religious order in the world. His term as General transformed the Jesuit order in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and was inspired by the struggle for Justice and Faith: religious faith today must be outspoken in its opposition to the social evils of poverty, hunger, the unjust distribution of wealth and resources, racial and social discrimination.
The crisis of the Vietnamese boat people led him to found the Jesuit Refugee Service: since 1980 the JRS has served an estimated 40 million refugees, and works today in 45 countries.
Father Arrupe died in 1991 and the process for his beatification opened in 2018. He shows the way to greatness for us all: service, prayer, and humble compassion.