Sixth general of the Society of Jesus; b. Rome, Dec. 2, 1563; d. there, Feb. 9, 1645. After his entrance into the novitiate in 1583, he pursued ecclesiastical studies, taught philosophy and theology, and in 1593 was made rector of the English College. He served as provincial of the Roman and Neopolitan provinces, became assistant for Italy in 1608, and was elected general on Nov. 15, 1615, by the seventh general congregation, in spite of the Spanish opposition, which tried to regain control of the society. Under Vitelleschi, the society experienced constant expansion in Europe and the missions, and at his death there were more than 16,000 members, 35 provinces, three vice provinces, 521 colleges, 49 seminaries, and more than 360 residences throughout the world. He has been criticized by L. von Ranke and H. Boehmer for his mild rule and his allowing a growing bureaucracy of Roman professors. He approved A. Santarelli's ultramontanist De haeresi…et de potestate romani pontificis, which provoked political difficulties with Richelieu. His approbation of probabilism, and the condemnation of the monita secreta, a forgery attributed to the society, were other matters that belied the easygoing monotone de bonheur with which Crétineau-Joly described his generalate.
Bibliography: j. crÉtineau-joly, Histoire religieuse, politique et littéraire de la Compagnie de Jésus, 6 v. (Paris 1844–46) v.3. c. sommervogel, Bibliotèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, 11v. (Brussels-Paris 1890–1932) 8:848–852. l. koch, Jesuiten-Lexikon: Die Gesellschaft Jesu einst und jetzt (Paderborn 1934); photoduplicated with rev. and suppl., 2 v. (Louvain-Heverlee 1962) 1822–23.
[p. j. goda]