Monday, December 29, 2014

RIP Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, SJ

Pope Francis has expressed his sorrow and sent his condolences to his Jesuit brothers for the death of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, SJ, who passed away on the night of December 26 in Kamishakujii, Tokyo.

Describing Archbishop Pittau as an “exemplary minister of God,” in his telegram addressed to Father Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, Superior General of the Jesuit Order, the Pope recalled Pittau’s “generous missionary apostleship in Japan” and thanked God for the service he rendered to the Apostolic See and for how he dedicated himself to the mission of the Society of Jesus.

Here is a translation of the text of the telegram:

Reverend Father, having been informed to the passing away of His Excellency Monsignor Giuseppe Pittau, I wish to express my sincere condolences to you, to all his Jesuit brothers and to all those who grieve the death of an exemplary minister of God who lived for the cause of the Gospel. Recalling his generous missionary apostleship in Japan, where he ended his earthly life, I give thanks to the Lord for the service he rendered to the Apostolic See as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education and for his work as President of Tokyo’s Sophia University as well as Rector of the Gregorian University in Rome and for his dedication to the Society of Jesus. Entrusting his soul to the maternal intercession of Our Lady I impart my Apostolic Blessing in the light of the Resurrection of Christ.
                                                                   Franciscus P.P.

Born on the Italian Island of Sardinia in 1928, Giuseppe Pittau entered the Society of Jesus in 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He arrived in Japan in 1952 as a Jesuit missionary, and spent most of his academic life at Sophia University.

In the words of those who knew him and worked with him he was an “intellectual, administrative, and spiritual giant”.

He played a very important role in the development of Sophia University. Among his lasting contributions were the democratic process of electing a President (voted not only by the faculty, but also by the staff), the increase in the number of students (from about 5,000 to 10,000), the addition or re-arrangement of several departments and faculties.

Most admirable, according to many, was his foresight, arising from his dream of making Sophia a university that can significantly contribute to Japan by remaining faithful to its Jesuit/Catholic calling. He was especially interested in making Sophia an international university, bringing in not only European, Australian, and American professors but also Asian ones from countries like India, the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.

After serving as President of Sophia University, Pittau moved on to become the Jesuit Provincial Superior of Japan, and it was in that capacity that he welcomed Saint Pope John Paul II to Japan in February 1981.

When the hardworking Jesuit General Pedro Arrupe became incapacitated in August 1981, the Pope weeks later personally requested Pittau to assist in governing the Society of Jesus, as second-in-command to the visually-challenged Fr. Paolo Dezza. the Papal Delegate  (later named a Cardinal).

It was at General Congregation XXXIII in September 1983 that I got to know Fr. Pittau.  As the delegates were seated alphabetically by last names, he was seated in front of me and slightly lower (as our seats were on graded levels). I would watch him read his Japanese Bible and regularly hear him tell me of his desire to exit the limelight in Rome to return to Japan, whose people he had come to love.

But this was not to be: the newly-elected Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach immediately chose him as one of two General Counselor that he could personally name. His understanding of the nuances of Italian culture helped immensely in continuing to foster cordial relations between the Jesuit Curia and the Roman Curia, which he had initiated as assistant to Father Dezza.

Later, he was named Rector of the Gregorian University, while continuing his advisory role in the Jesuit General's cabinet. In July 1998, he was named Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which brings with it episcopal ordination and a titular archdiocese: in his case, that of Castro di Sardegna, a now-extinct diocese in Sardinia, his home region. His ordination took place on September 26, 1998 and he served as Secretary of the CCE until the retirement age of 75, which he reached in the fall of 2003.

While serving as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' liaison bishop to the Associations of Catholic Colleges and Universities of Canada, I had a number of meetings with him at the CCE as we formalized the norms for implementing the Charter for Catholic institutions of Higher Education, Ex corde Ecclesiae in Canada's Catholic colleges.

He came to Canada for the Intercontinental Meeting on Vocations in Montreal in April 2002, where his interventions on several occasions fostered understanding among delegates.

After some time in Rome on his retirement from the Roman Curia, he realized his dream and returned to Japan where he carried on a ministry of occasional lectures and then moved to parish pastoral ministry. I delighted in receiving his annual Christmas message with news of his activities. In recent years, his eyesight diminished and he became increasingly limited in his activities.

May the Lord whom he desired to serve from his youth grant him a merciful judgment and offer him the greeting mentioned in the gospel for faithful disciples: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into your master's joy"!

Requiescat in pace.

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