Jesuits elect new Superior General

Fr General Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ
Fr General Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ

Following a voting process which began at 9.00 local time the Jesuits have elected Father Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ, of the Venezuelan Province, as their Superior General. The news was received shortly after 11.00am this morning.

Arturo Sosa was born in Caracas (Venezuela), on November 12, 1948. He is the Delegate of Fr. General for the Curia and the Interprovincial Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome; he is also Counselor of Father General. He has a Licence in Philosophy from the Catholic University Andrés Bello (1972) and is a Doctor in Political Sciences of the Universidad Central de Venezuela.

During the 35th General Congregation, in 2008, he was chosen Counselor General by the Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás. In 2014, he joined the curia of the Society of Jesus, in Rome, as Delegate for the Curia, 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 and the Vatican Observatory, as well as a number of international colleges and residences.

Between 1996 and 2004, Arturo Sosa has been Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Venezuela. Before, he had been coordinator of the social apostolate in that country and Director of Centro Gumilla, a centre of research and social action of the Jesuits in Venezuela.

Fr. Arturo Sosa has had a long career dedicated to teaching and research. He has had a number of responsibilities in the university environment. He was a professor and a member of the Foundation Council of the Catholic University Andrés Bello and for 10 years he was the Rector of the Catholic University in Táchira. He did most of his research and teaching in the area of political sciences, in a number of centres and institutions.

In 2004, he has been invited by the Center for Latin American Studies of Georgetown University, in the United States, and was professor of Venezuelan Political Thinking of the Catholic University of Táchira.

He published a number of works, mainly about the history and the politics of Venezuela.

Read Fr Provincial's blog post to the new General before his identity was known

Calling on the Holy Spirit

At 7.30 this morning the delegates to GC36 prepared for Election Day with the Mass of the Holy Spirit concelebrated by all the electors. Fr. James Grummer, the Vicar General of the Society of Jesus, presided over the Eucharist and preached the homily. The Gospel (John 20 19:23) described how Jesus appears to his disciples gathered in the upper room in a state of pure fear. The Lord appears with a message of peace and he gives them the Holy Spirit. Fr. Grummer commented: “Notice that the movement St. Ignatius proposes is quite simple: a journey from fear to joy and from the gift received to the mission, a journey that is proposed to each Jesuit and each General Congregation.”

After the mass the electors immediately began the voting process. Fr. Grummer advised: “our mission this morning is to elect a General. We will be locked in an upper room, not out of fear, rather so that we can better listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. We are not afraid, because we believe firmly that the Holy Spirit guides the election.  We can be confident that Jesus will give us his Spirit, however infirm we may feel”.

The election procedure follows exactly what St Ignatius himself prescribed in the Constitutions of the Society. The election happens only after the period of prayer and reflection, the four days of murmuratio, which commenced on Monday.

Election procedure

After the Mass of the Holy Spirit at 7.30 this morning, the electors met in the aula for the beginning of the vote. Each elector received a paper ballot on which on one side is printed an oath stating that the undersigned “swears that he is voting for the one who, in his opinion in the Lord, is the one most capable of exercising this office”.  Each elector signed the oath and then wrote the name of the one for whom he is voting on the reverse side. The ballots were read out aloud, one by one, by the Vicar General (the one who has taken the place of the General during the interim between Generals) and by two scrutineers. No one is allowed to vote for himself.

The process was repeated until a Jesuit received a simple majority i.e. 50% of the votes plus one. For today’s election with 212 electors, 107 votes were needed.