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Jesuits elect first Latin-American general 

Rome: The Society of Jesus on October 14 elected its first superior general who sports a mustache.

Father Arturo Sosa, 67, is also the first Latin-American leader to head the largest Catholic religious order for men that was started in 1540. He has become the 30th successor of St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the congregation.

Around 212 electors from across the world, representing nearly 17,000 Jesuits worldwide, voted for Sosa. They are attending the 36the general congregation of the order, its highest legislative body.

The Rome-based Venezuelan’s past curiously parallels that of the first Jesuit pope.

Like Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who steered his divided province through the 1970s Argentine dictatorship, the new Jesuit chief was Venezuelan provincial between 1996 and 2004, when the province had differed with the dictatorship of Hugo Chávez.

Prior to his appointment as provincial, he was in charge of the social apostolate of the Jesuits in Venezuela, which included the massive poor-school Jesuit network, Fe y Alegría. He was also head of the Centro Gumilla, the Jesuit-run social and action research center.

In an interview in 2014 he described the authoritarian regime of Chávez’s successor Nicolás Maduro as a “popular tyranny.”

Pope and Black Pope (middle)

Pope and Black Pope (middle)

As an expert in political science and political theory, who has taught and researched widely and who knows the Maduro regime at first hand, his election seems designed, in part, to bolster the Vatican’s mediation in the fast-deteriorating situation there.

Sosa, becomes the 31st superior general of the Jesuits, was born in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 12, 1948. He has a doctorate in Political Sciences from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, and speaks Spanish, Italian, and English.

Among his distinguished academic posts, he has served as member of the founding board of the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas and rector of the Catholic University of Táchira. He has taught and researched political science in many different institutes and colleges, and in 2004 was a visiting professor at the Latin-American Studies Center of Georgetown University.

He has been serving since 2014 as the Delegate of the General for the International houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome, meaning he has had responsibility for Jesuit formation and other houses, including the Jesuit headquarters, or General Curia and the Gregorian University.

It is not yet clear how many ballots it took to elect him, but the result was known after just a couple of hours. The Jesuit electors have spent this week in the murmuratio, discussing the merits of possible generals with each other.

Like Pope Francis, Fr Sosa is the Jesuits’ first non-European leader and also the first superior general to be elected under a Jesuit pope. He succeeds Fr Adolfo Nicolás, a Spanish priest who formally resigned this month aged 80.

Fr Sosa was born in Caracas on November 12, 1948. He is the Delegate of the General for the International Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome.

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