Jesuits elect Venezuelan as new head of order

IMAGE: CNS/Don Doll, S.J.

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) — Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, 67, a
member of the Jesuits’ Venezuelan province, was elected the first non-European
superior general of the Society of Jesus.

The 212 voting delegates to the Jesuit general congregation
elected Father Sosa Oct. 14. He succeeds Father Adolfo Nicolas, 80, who had
asked to resign because of his age.

Pope Francis was informed of the election of Father Sosa
before the Jesuits announced it publicly.

The election came after four days of prayer, silence and
quiet one-on-one conversations among the voting delegates, who were chosen to
represent the more than 16,000 Jesuits around the world.

Reacting to his election, Father Sosa told Vatican Radio,
“I have the feeling of needing great help; now the great challenge

Because they belong to the Society of Jesus, “Jesus
must give us work to do here, too, with us,” he said. The work of the
Jesuits isn’t the responsibility of one person, but of the entire order, whose
members are “very good,” he said.

In an interview Oct. 7 about the pre-election phase of the
congregation, Father Sosa said delegates gathered come from different
countries, but they share a common culture linked to their experience of the
Ignatian spiritual exercises and practices of discernment. “We have a long
tradition and a strong desire to listen to the same voice, that is the voice of
the Holy Spirit,” he said in an interview published on the Jesuits’

Father Sosa was born in Caracas on Nov. 12, 1948. He joined
the Jesuits in 1966 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977, according to a
press release from the Jesuits.

Prior to the election, he was Father Nicolas’ delegate for
the international houses and works of the Society of Jesus in Rome. He was
provincial superior of the Jesuits in Venezuela between 1996 and 2004 and
general counselor of the Society of Jesus from 2008 to 2011.

From 1977 to 1996, he was the director of “Centro
Gumilla,” a center of research and social action of the Jesuits in

As a teacher and researcher, the Jesuit worked with the
Foundation Council of the Catholic University Andres Bello and other institutes
and centers, and he served as president of the Catholic University of Tachira.

He was invited to teach at Georgetown University’s Center
for Latin American Studies in 2004, and he was a professor of Venezuelan
political thought at the Catholic University of Tachira. He has published a
number of works, mostly about the history and politics of Venezuela.

He has a degree in philosophy from the Catholic University
Andres Bello in Caracas, a degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian
University in Rome, and a doctorate in political science from the Universidad Central
de Venezuela.

He speaks Spanish, Italian, English and understands French.

Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro told Vatican Radio Oct. 14
that Father Sosa has great experience and skill in governance, spirituality and
academics, making him a very “multifaceted and well-rounded” leader.

His expertise in political science and experience dealing
with the difficult situation in Venezuela means he is also highly “capable
of facing tensions that may arise in the world,” Father Spadaro said. He
added that the priest not only knows fellow-Jesuit Pope Francis well,
“they esteem each other.”

The resignation of Father
Nicolas and the election of Father Sosa came during the order’s 36th general
congregation, which began Oct. 2. After the election, the gathering was to
continue as delegates focus on questions of Jesuit identity and governance,
vocations, mission and collaboration with the laity.

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