December 4, 2016 — In a world of conflict, deeply in need of the mercy frequently implored by Pope Francis, Jesuits can be agents of reconciliation and dialogue, the Society’s new Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, said in an exclusive interview with America magazine.
Father Sosa, elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus on October 14, told America’s editor-in-chief Fr. Matt Malone, SJ, that he believes far-flung Jesuits can be models of the benefits of discernment, adaptability, and “the very rich experience of … multiculturality” for the Church and the world, especially in those regions of conflict where Jesuits are present. He spoke with Fr. Malone in Rome on November 28.
Father Sosa, born in Caracas, Venezuela, is the first Jesuit from Latin America to be elected Superior General. His election comes as the Church is experiencing its first Latin American pope. He suggested this historic moment represents an invitation “to see the Latin American church” and the progress it has made since Vatican II.
“Jorge Mario Bergoglio — Pope Francis — and myself, we’re sons of a Church and a living Church. The Latin American Church has made a very nice process after Vatican II. We were formed in that process — the pope and myself — in different points in Latin America.”
That mutual historical experience, he said, “takes very seriously the faith of the people … takes very seriously the community life as the base of the Church life, takes very seriously the respect for the other, and very seriously tries to make the social justice a practical commitment of the Church, of the Society.”
Father Sosa said that Pope Francis understands very well the role of religious life in the church. “So for the Society it’s really an opportunity to be used. The pope knows very well how he can use the Jesuits and the Society of Jesus in service of the Church.”
On November 26, just a few days before Fr. Malone spoke with Fr. Sosa, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, a former superior general, passed away in Lebanon. Father Sosa said Fr. Kolvenbach “opened the Society to dialogue with all the cultures, especially the inter-religious dialogue … he was very aware of the importance [of other traditions] — different from the Latin tradition — in the church."
“During his 25 years as general, the Society became a real multicultural body of the church,” Fr. Sosa added.
Father Sosa told Fr. Malone that after the shock of being elected Superior General he quickly came to feel at peace with the decision of his brother Jesuits, partly because of his confidence in the system of discernment applied by Jesuits to the election.
“It’s a time of praying, of discernment, of dialogue among the electors,” he said of the election process, which he described as a deeply spiritual experience, of “being in the hands of God.”
“If we take seriously that the Spirit talks in the election … that gives me peace,” he said. “It was not my desire; it was not my plan; I didn’t want to do that. So it’s really like a call from the Spirit through my brothers, the Society. So I suppose the same Spirit that made that movement and the brothers who put me here will help to move on in the Society’s mission.”
He likened this experience of acceptance to the Ignatian sense of spiritual consolation. “It’s not a superficial happiness. It’s a feeling that you are really in the hands of God and you want to do his will.” [Source: America magazine]