Jesuits Elect First Leader from Latin America
For Immediate Release
(Rome, October 14, 2016) — Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, SJ, of Venezuela, was elected the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus at the Jesuits’ General Congregation 36 (GC 36) today in Rome. Fr. Sosa will now lead the Society of Jesus, the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church.
Fr. Sosa, who previously served as Delegate of the General for the International Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome, was elected by the 212 Jesuit electors at the General Congregation, the supreme governing body of the Society, that is currently being held at the Jesuit Curia, the Society’s headquarters in Rome. He succeeds Father Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, 80, who resigned last week after serving as Superior General since 2008.
Fr. Sosa was born in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 12, 1948. He entered the Society of Jesus in September 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1977. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the Catholic University Andrés Bello in Caracas, a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome and a doctorate in political science from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He was provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Venezuela from 1996 to 2004.
Fr. Sosa, only the 31st Superior General in the Society’s 476-year history, now leads the 16,740 Jesuits worldwide. This includes approximately 12,000 priests; 1,300 brothers; 2,700 scholastics; and 753 novices.
The election was held after four days of murmuratio, a centuries-old practice of one-on-one conversation and information gathering, designed to prepare the delegation for the selection of a new Superior General.
The day of the election began with a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit at Santo Spirito Church, the 12th-century church across the street from the Curia. After Mass, the delegates returned to the Curia for an hour of silent prayer. Then, each delegate took an oath and wrote a name on a ballot and signed it. Unlike a traditional election, there is no prepared ballot, no candidates, no politicking and no campaigning.
In order to be named as the Jesuits’ new superior general, Fr. Sosa would have had to have received 107 votes (50 percent plus one of the 212 electors). All aspects of the election are strictly confidential, although the congregation confirmed that the first person to be notified of Fr. Sosa’s election was Pope Francis.
While Fr. Sosa’s election as superior general completes one of the main tasks of GC 36, the group’s work is not over. Now the delegates will tackle matters of mission, governance and the state of the Society. Topics may range from the Society’s changing demographics to challenges in worldwide ministries, to the Jesuit response to a rapidly changing world, environmental concerns, poverty and violence.
About the Society of Jesus
Founded in 1540 by Saint Ignatius of Loyola and his companions, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. Jesuit priests and brothers are involved in educational, pastoral and spiritual ministries around the world, practicing a faith that promotes justice. For more information on the Society of Jesus and General Congregation 36, visit www.gc36.org.