General Superior

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General Superior or Superior General (often simply as General or Superior General called) is in the Roman Catholic Church 's highest Upper ( supremus moderator ) of a religious community with centralized constitution, a society of apostolic life or a Secular Institute . Analog is at the top corresponding to authored female institutes a Generalsuperiorin or superior general .


In contrast to the highest heads of federally organized orders such as the Benedictines ( Abbot Primate ) or Augustinian Canons (Abbot Primate), the General Superiors in centrally managed religious orders have more extensive decision-making powers with regard to the overall order and the individual branches of the order. The religious orders with a centralized organization include B. the Franciscans , Dominicans, Jesuits and Redemptorists and practically all congregations of recent origin.

Order-specific designations

Depending on the tradition of the community, there are different designations for the highest leadership office: Abbot general in the monk and canon orders stemming from monastic tradition, minister general in the Franciscan orders and in the Carthusian order , magister general or master of the order of Dominicans and some other mendicant orders , prior general in Carmelites , Augustinians and several other communities. The superior general of the Jesuits is mentioned in the constitutions of the order praepositus generalis (in German: "General Superior", "General Propst"), but in German is usually simply referred to as the "General of the Jesuits". In the parlance of many other orders and congregations , unspecific designations such as general , superior general or superior general are common. The highest heads of religious orders of knights are called grand masters or grand masters .

Canonical position and tasks

The superior general, like the provincial superior and other leading officials in the order (e.g. the abbots or abbesses of independent monasteries ) belong to the higher superiors in the sense of can. 620 CIC and is at the same time Ordinary in exemte clerical religious institutes and societies of apostolic life that are not subject to local episcopal authority (can. 134 § 1 CIC). This means that the superior general has to take care of the members of his association in accordance with the respective order rule .

All superior general of the papal institutes represent their community before the Pope and are responsible to him. The same applies to associations under episcopal law vis-à-vis the responsible local bishop.

Superior general are elected by the general chapter of their community on a temporary basis (usually for six years), with the possibility of re-election in practically all orders. In some orders, however, this is limited to a certain maximum number. In the Jesuit order, the superior general is elected for life, so it is sometimes referred to as the "black pope" in reference to the color of the priestly cassock. The official seat of the superior general is the generalate, in which the general curia (head office) of the association resides and which for communities under papal law is mostly in Rome .

The general superior is responsible for the direction of the overall order, in which he (the female form is always implicitly to be considered in the following) is supported by the general council . He has to hear his general councilors on important issues and is also bound by their vote in various decisions. In addition, it is his task to visit all conventions , communities or branches of the order or association within his term of office or a certain number of years , whereby he can be supported by a visitor in large religious communities. He can close branches of the institute (according to can 616 § 1 CIC) and build, relocate or close novitiate houses. In all his ministry he is responsible to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life . He has his personal place of jurisdiction at Rota .

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the CCEO decides that a superior general must have at least ten years of profession and be at least 35 years old (can. 513 CCEO). Similar regulations can also be found in the proper law of most western religious orders.

Other meanings

  • In the City of Vienna , the title of General Superior can be bestowed on particularly long-serving and well-deserved persons in the nursing field in a leading position. A corresponding male designation is not provided.
  • Superior General is the title of chairman of the board of the Association of Sisterhoods of the German Red Cross eV and of the chairman of the board of the Munich Sisterhood of the Bavarian Red Cross eV V.
  • Minister General also designated the leading clergyman in the Congregation of the Mariavites .
  • General Governor also designated the leading representative of the laity in the administration of the Knightly Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem


  • Stephan Haering : Article Superior General . In: ders., Heribert Schmitz (Hrsg.): Lexikon des Kirchenrechts (Lexicon for theology and church compact). Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2004, Col. 327 f.
  • Bruno Primetshofer : Ordensrecht: On the basis of the Codex Iuris Canonici 1983 and the CCEO taking into account the national law of the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (= Rombach Science ). 4th edition. Rombach, Freiburg i. Br. 2003, ISBN 3-7930-9354-9 .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Abbot General Speinshart Monastery , accessed February 10, 2017 .
  2. Glossary. German Franciscan Province, accessed on February 10, 2017 .
  3. ^ Letter from Pope John Paul II to the Prior of the Great Charterhouse and Minister General of the Carthusian Order of May 14, 2001; accessed on February 14, 2017.
  4. ^ Rule and Fundamental Constitutions., accessed February 10, 2017 .
  5. ^ SJ glossary., archived from the original on February 11, 2017 ; accessed on February 10, 2017 .
  6. The new general of the Jesuits: Father Sosa from Venezuela. Message on Vatican Radio , October 14, 2016; accessed on February 12, 2017.