It did not take the 36th General Congregation long. After celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit early on Friday 14 October, the 212 electors were locked into the Aula to vote for the next Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
Just before lunch, the first news came that the new Superior General is Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal from the Venezuela Jesuit Province.
Fr General Arturo Sosa is the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He is also the first Superior General from Latin America, in fact the first from outside Europe.
After his election, Fr Antonio Spadaro called Pope Francis to inform him of the new Superior General. Fr Arturo Sosa then professed his vows as Superior General. The first in line to congratulate him were his predecessor Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ and the Venezuelan Provincial Fr Arturo Peraza SJ.
Fr Sosa was born in Caracas, Venezuela on 12 November 1948. He speaks Spanish, Italian and English, and understands French. He has a licentiate in philosophy from Università Cattolica Andrés Bello and a doctorate in Political Sciences from Università Centrale del Venezuela.
During the 35th General Congregation in 2008, he was appointed a General Counsellor by then Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás, but fulfilled this role while still based in Venezuela. In 2014, though, he joined the General Curia community when he was appointed Delegate for the Interprovincial Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome.
These institutions are directly under the Superior General of the Jesuits. Among them are the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Pontifical Oriental Institute, the Vatican Observatory, and the General Curia itself, as well as a number of international colleges and residences.
Between 1996 and 2004, Fr Sosa was Provincial of the Jesuits in Venezuela. Prior to that, he had been province coordinator for the social apostolate and Director of Centro Gumilla, a centre of research and social action of the Jesuits in Venezuela.
Fr Sosa has had a long career in teaching and research. He was a professor and member of the Council of the Andrés Bello Catholic Foundation and he was the Rector of the Catholic University in Táchira for 10 years. Most of his research and teaching is in the area of political science.
In 2004, he was invited by the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University in the United States to be a visiting professor, and he was professor of Venezuelan Political Thinking of the Catholic University of Táchira.
Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific President, Fr Mark Raper remarked, ‘Fr Arturo Sosa will serve the Society well at this time. He is a generous man, a good listener and capable in administration. He has humour and an engaging personality, and he will surely communicate easily with our Latin American Pope.’
The new Fr General presided over the Thanksgiving Mass at the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Society of Jesus, on 15 October.
With the election of the Superior General, the 36th General Congregation will proceed to discuss matters related to mission, governance and the state of the Society.
This may include the Society’s changing demographics, challenges in worldwide ministries, and the Jesuit response to a rapidly changing world, environmental concerns, poverty and violence.