(Vatican Radio) Promoting reconciliation and dialogue in a divided and wounded world is a top priority for the Society of Jesus under its new leader, Venezuelan Father Arturo Sosa, the first non-European to be elected as the Jesuit superior general.
Fr Sosa held a press conference on Tuesday morning to discuss his election last week by Jesuits from around the world who are meeting in Rome for their 36th General Congregation.
Philippa Hitchen went along to find out more about the reactions of the new ‘black pope’, as he’s popularly known, and the direction in which he’ll be leading the Church’s largest order of religious men…..
Fr Sosa said he was serene, surprised, grateful and “ready to respond with joy” to the challenges currently being discussed by the Jesuits holding their 36th general congregation since the order was founded by St Ignatius of Loyola, nearly five centuries ago.
Speaking at the Jesuit headquarters, just down the road from St Peter’s Basilica, Fr Sosa thanked especially his predecessor, Fr Adolfo Nicolas who’ll be returning as a missionary to the Philippines to serve as spiritual director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute.
Venezuela's political crisis
Responding to journalists’ questions, the new Jesuit leader discussed the political crisis in his home country, Venezuela, where he said the government of President Maduro and the opposition have failed “to build bridges” of dialogue. The country’s dependence on declining oil revenues and the lack of political agreement has left the nation in a situation of “serious suffering,” he said.
Working with refugees, migrants and the poor
Asked about priorities for the order over the coming years, Fr Sosa said these are currently under discussion by delegates at the ongoing General Congregation, representing almost 17.000 Jesuit priests and brothers across the globe. However he pointed to key issues of interfaith dialogue, tackling poverty, working with migrants and refugees which emerged as priorities during the previous General Congregation back in 2008.
Uphold faith, work for justice
All Christians are called to work for reconciliation, Fr Sosa, said, though that can often seem like an impossible task in a world dominated by finance, the illegal arms trade and human trafficking. Yet the two pivotal goals of the Jesuits, he stressed, are to uphold the faith of the Church and to deepen an understanding of the world through research and education. Formation, he insisted, continues to be a priority in order to be able to witness to the Gospel and work for justice within the political, economic, social and cultural contexts of our times.
Serving the pope, the Church and humanity
Fr Sosa was asked how he felt about the nickname ‘black pope’, given to the Jesuits because of their plain black cassocks, but also on account of the power they were seen to wield within the Church in the early centuries of their existence. He replied that he didn’t like the name much, since Jesuits today seek to serve rather than to be in the front line, even if today there are some 70 Jesuit bishops, as well as the first Jesuit pope. Members of the order make a special vow of obedience to the pope, he concluded, so that they can best serve the Church, wherever and in whatever way that service is required.