Venezuelan Fr. Arturo Sosa elected as new head of Jesuit order

Fr Arturo Sosa SJ Photo courtesy of the Jesuits 36th General Congregation CNA Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ. Photo courtesy of the Jesuit's 36th General Congregation.

After several weeks of discussion and discernment, the Jesuit order has elected Fr. Arturo Sosa as their new Superior General, who will be taking over after the resignation of their former leader, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás.

Former head of the Venezuelan Jesuit province, Fr. Sosa entered the Society of Jesus in 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1977.

He has obtained degrees in philosophy, theology and political science, and was a member of the Social Center of the Venezuelan province from 1977-1996, when he was appointed as Superior of the Jesuits in Venezuela, guiding through the stormy waters of Hugo Chavez's dictatorship.

In 2004, he was named General Counselor of the Society of Jesus, a position he held until 2011. He has until now served as president of the University in the State of Táchira, a role he has also held since 2004.

Fr. Sosa's election as the 31st General Superior of the Jesuits marks the first time a Latin American has led the Society, and he takes the helm under the Catholic Church's first Jesuit and Latin American Pope.

Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, the Society of Jesus always holds a general congregation upon the death or resignation of the Superior General in order to choose his successor. They can also be called if the Superior sees the need to take action on a serious matter that he either can't or doesn't want to decide on alone.

In this case, the Jesuits called their 36th General Congregation after Fr. Adlofo Nicolás, from Spain, submitted his resignation at the age of 80 after running the order for eight years.

Deliberations began Oct. 2 when 215 delegates from around the world gathered at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, located just a few feet from the Vatican. Out of the total 215 delegates, 212 participated in the voting.

On Oct. 10 participants began the centuries-old practice of the "murmuratio," which is a four-day process of one-on-one conversations and information gathering aimed at preparing for the election by discussing the merits of the various candidates.

Jesuits – who in addition to making the usual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience – make additional special vow of obedience to the Pope "in regards to mission," and swear an oath to never seek higher offices within the Church. Thus, any Jesuit who discovers someone campaigning must report them immediately.

However, while they are not allowed to pursue positions of authority, their vow of obedience to the Pope means they must submit when he calls. Such was the case with Pope Francis, who was named auxiliary bishop and then Archbishop of Buenos Aires by St. John Paul II.

The Church's first Jesuit Pope, Francis entered his novitiate with the Society of Jesus in 1958. He received a philosophy degree in 1963 and spent the next three years teaching literature and psychology.

The now-Bishop of Rome then studied theology from 1967 to 1970, during which time he was ordained a priest. His priestly ordination was Dec. 13, 1969.

He did the final state of Jesuit formation from 1970 to 1971, and was novice master at the Jesuit seminary in San Miguel, a Buenos Aires suburb, from 1972 to 1973, where he taught theology.

In 1973, he made his perpetual vows in the Society, and that year was elected provincial for Argentina. After his time as provincial, from 1980 to 1986, he served as rector of the seminary at San Miguel, where he had studied, and was pastor of a parish in the city.

He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, Archbishop in 1998, elevated as a cardinal in 2001, and elected to the papacy March 13, 2013.

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