General Congregation 31 was convened to elect a successor to Fr Janssens. It also happened to unfold at a crucial crossroads of the history of the modern church, Vatican II. The Second Vatican Council was to take place over 4 sessions ( the Italian autumns of 1962 - 1965). GC31 was to open in May 1965, in between the third and fourth sessions of Vatican II. Therefore it was being asked not only to elect a new general (Arrupe) but also to respond to the momentous occurrences of Vatican II. Because of this the Congregation itself took the unprecedented step of taking place over two sessions, the first from May 7th to July 15th, 1965, the second session from September 7th to November 17th 1966.
Fr Maurice Giuliani of France gave an exhortation to the delegates to elect a man as general who would be open to the universal good of the Church. Arrupe aged 58 was duly elected. After the election the business of the congregation was directed by two dominant influences - the Council and Pope Paul VI. The Council had issued a decree on the renewal of religious life, Perfectae Caritatis, without giving too-specific indications because of the wide variety of religious life. Two clear principles where evident though - to draw close to the original spirit of their founders and secondly the needs of the modern world. For the Society of Jesus it seemed to be a renewed appreciation of its apostolic essence, fed by the experience of the Spiritual Exercises. Paul VI memorably said to the delegates at the conclusion of the congregation 'It is time most beloved sons, Go forth in faith and ardour; Christ chooses you, the Church sends you, the Pope blesses you."
The momentous changes of Vatican II however would take a long time to appropriate. The immediate years after GC31 were times of great change, experimentation in religious life, and the exodus of religious was significant, including the Society. Because of this turmoil - Fr Arrupe felt it was necessary to convene GC32 only five years later. Significantly the Councils insights and the experience of the Congregations dramatically changed and reshaped the training of young Jesuits. Published studies on Ignatian Spirituality moved from being of a juridical in character, often about the Constitutions, to works that explored the spiritual emphases, attitudes and aspirations of St Ignatius. There was a shift from the Ignatius of the past to the Ignatius of today.