Everard Mercurian General # 4
General from 1573 to 1580
After the death of Borgia when the Third General Congregation was about to convene, Pope Gregory XIII (Boncompagni), a good friend of the Society, expressed his desire that the delegates elect a General who was not a Spaniard. The First three had been Spaniards and there was some concern that "New Christians"—converted Jews or Muslims—might enter into the mainstream of the Society. Polanco, a close associate of Father Ignatius, was a Spaniard and was suspected of having a racial background that would not be acceptable. So, the Pope suggested that someone from another country be chosen as General, even though Polanco would have been the natural choice. The Fathers of the Congregation voted 27 out of 47 on April 23, 1573 for the election of Everard Mercurian, a Belgian. It was a choice which pleased the Pope because Mercurian was a good friend, a non-Spaniard, and besides, there was no chance of his having tainted blood.
During his seven years and three months as General, he published a Summary of the Constitutions and made a revision of the Rules. From his friend Gregory the Society received charge of the English College and Gregory's beneficence to the Roman College was much appreciated. During this time, too, Polanco traveled the length and breadth of Europe making a census of the Society's activities and of its men. When it was finally finished it filled six large volumes and gave a detailed account of the progress the Society had made from 1537 until the death of Ignatius.
Mercurian died, a martyr of charity, during the influenza epidemic of 1580 while visiting the sick in their homes. He was 66 at the time of his death and was buried in the Church of St. Andrea al Quirinale, at that time the church of the Novitiate. Later on, his remains were transferred to the Ossuary in the crypt of the Gesú. At the time of his death the Society had grown to 5,000 members in 21 provinces.