Jonathan Rodrigues | Oct 15, 2016, 03:17 IST

PANAJI: The 'murmuratio' at the Jesuit Curia in Rome ended
with thunderous applause and loud Hispanic cheer as the 36th
General Congregation (GC) of the Society of Jesus, on Friday,
elected Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal, of the Venezuelan Province,
as the 31st superior general of the 476-year-old religious order.

Two hundred and fifteen delegates from 79 Jesuit provinces
across 112 countries were witness to this historical event
that saw the Society of Jesus elect its first non-European leader.

          "The mood is ecstatic and joyful. The first thing
          the new general did was embrace the outgoing
          general Fr Adolfo Nicolas. All electors then
          individually greeted him to pay allegiance to his
          leadership. This is done to build solidarity and
          celebrate as one group no matter who you voted
          for," said the sub-secretary of the Society of
          Jesus, Fr Agnelo Mascarenhas, a Jesuit from
          Sarzora, South Goa, who was earlier elected as the
          first assistant secretary to the 36th GC.

Speaking to TOI over the phone from Rome, Mascarenhas said,
"Being from a country which is going through a struggle, he
is very much aware of the plight of migrants and the poor. He
has not been to India and Africa, but he is very open to
different cultures. I asked him about his plans to visit
India and he said, 'No plans yet, but I will take the first
opportunity to do so. One of my first trips will be to

At the elections, besides being an elector, Mascarenhas’ role
was to engage in the all-important job of counting votes --
which were, this year, cast digitally on a tablet.

The Jesuit genreal is often nicknamed the 'Black Pope'
because of his black vestments, as contrasted to the white
vestments worn by the pontiff of the Catholic Church.

Interestingly, both the Pope and the 'Black Pope' are Latin
Americans and have known each other for many years as Jesuits
provincials, having attended two general congregations
together in the past.

          "His good relations with the Vatican City and Pope
          Francis will mean we can respond to challenges of
          the world ever more swiftly," said Fr Rosario
          Rocha, the provincial of the Goa province, who was
          the second Goan constituting the 44-member South
          Asian delegation.

"It is a big step forward for the Society of Jesus to have a
general from a third world developing country, but this is
where Christianity is most vibrant today," said Fr Savio
Abreu, director of Xavier Centre for Historical Research,

"Having the first general from Latin America is truly
special. It is indeed a paradigm shift. The number of Jesuits
in Europe is also dwindling and the Church is looking towards
other continents. Sosa is man with a vision and deeply
religious, and these are exciting times ahead," said Fr
Melwin Pinto, a Mangalorean Jesuit, who heads the Indian
section of Vatican Radio.

Sosa was born in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 12, 1948.
Until Friday, he was counsellor to the former general and the
delegate of the general for the international houses and
works of the Society of Jesus, in Rome. The South American
has a PhD in political sciences from the Universidad Central
de Venezuela and speaks Spanish, Italian and English.

With a long career dedicated to teaching and research, he was
been an influential figure as a former professor and member
of the Foundation Council of the Catholic University Andrés
Bello, Venezuela, and as the rector of the Catholic
University in Táchira, Venezuela.


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