By 1550 the Spanish text of the Society's Constitutions was complete and Ignatius summoned many of the older professed fathers to Rome to discuss it. The meetings lasted from early January to February 1, 1551. As the meetings were drawing to an end Ignatius, on January 30, 1551, presented to the assembled fathers a sealed letter containing his resignation as general of the Society. Of all the fathers only one1 thought that whatever Ignatius desired should be done. The others, however, were unanimous in maintaining that they would have no one else as general while Ignatius was alive. This message was sent to Ignatius, who humbly accepted their decision and remained general until his death in 1556. Ignatius composed this letter in Spanish [Ep. 3:303-304].
1. At different times throughout these months and years I have given this matter free and undisturbed thought, and I will state, in the presence of my Creator and Lord, who is also my eternal judge, what I take to be the balanced results of this reflection, to the greater praise and glory of the Divine Majesty.
2. Regarding calmly and with a sense of reality what I see in myself, as a result of my many sins, imperfections, and infirmities of body and soul, I have often and at different times come to the conclusion that I really do not possess (in fact, I infinitely lack) the gifts required for the proper discharge of the office which the Society itself has laid on me.
3. I have a great desire in our Lord that this matter be taken under consideration, and that another who is better, or not so bad, take over the office of governing the Society which is now mine.
4. I desire that such a person be chosen and given this office.
5. And not only does my desire persist, but I think with good reason that this office should be given, not only to one who would perform it better, or not so poorly, but to one who would have at least equal success.
6. Considering all this, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, my one and only God and Creator, I lay down and renounce simply and absolutely the office which I hold, and beg and beseech in our Lord with all my heart, both the professed and those who wish to join them, to be pleased to accept this resignation which is made with so much sincerity before His Divine Majesty.
7. If those who are to accept and pass judgment on this petition to God's greater glory detect any inconsistency in it, I beg of them for God's love and reverence to commend it to His Divine Majesty, so that in all things His most holy will be done to His greater glory and to the greater general good of souls and of the whole Society, understanding everything for the greater praise and eternal glory of God.
Rome, this day, Friday, January 30, 1551.
This was Andrés de Oviedo. Born in Illescas, Spain, about 1517, he entered the Society in Rome in 1541. After his studies he was appointed (1545) rector of the Jesuit college at Gandía, and it was he who led Francisco de Borja through his novitiate and received his vows on February 1, 1548. In 1550 Oviedo travelled to Rome with the duke and participated in the discussions on the Constitutions. He became (1551) rector of the new college in Naples and was later assigned to the mission in Ethiopia. He was ordained bishop on May 5, 1555, and became Patriarch of Ethiopia on December 20, 1562. In Ethiopia he lived amid extreme poverty; he died in 1577.