Father General on his first 9 months and Venezuela

Arturo Sosa
Arturo Sosa

Father General Arturo Sosa has been interviewed by L’Osservatore Romano after his first nine months governing the world-wide Society of Jesus. Giving an insight into the global apostolic reach of the Jesuits, he has already visited India, Peru, Spain, Germany, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  When asked to describe the Jesuit mission today, Father Sosa describes it as putting into practice reconciliation each day. This happens in different ways, ‘On three levels -  with God, with human beings and with the environment’. Following in the footsteps of the papal encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, Fr Sosa stressed that this means reaching beyond the confines of the Church, to talking and working with different cultures and religions.  “I have just returned from trip to Asia: in Indonesia, the most populated Islamic country in the world, I conversed at length with a group of Muslim intellectuals, and in Cambodia I met with Buddhist monks”.

Fr Sosa is the first non-European general of the Jesuits, and shares the mission of governance with another South American Jesuit as the Catholic Church is beginning to reflect its global presence. However, in spite of his many travels, he is watching very carefully the tragic events in his home country Venezuela. Acknowledging the significant interventions already by the Church, from the Pope down to the bishops and Jesuits of his own country,  in spite of everything, he is surprisingly optimistic. Hoping that the violence will stop and the needs of the people be met he said, “The 16th July referendum was the most important civil manifestation in the entire history of Venezuela because seven and a half million people participated. That is half the electorate”. This engagement in the world is something that Jesuits aspire to, but in a particular way, as contemplatives in action.

Discussing the Jesuit mission, Fr Sosa explains that this engagement has various dimensions that would be recognised by St Ignatius. Firstly a union of mind and heart which leads to common discernment, the practice of an austere life, affective and effective closeness to the poor and being available to the needs of the whole Church identified and expressed by the pope.  Calling this the ‘Venice model’ he cites a key moment in the early history of the Society. ”Ignatius and his companions were in Venice for a journey to the Holy Land. The project became impossible and, decisively for the Society, it evolved into a journey to Rome”.  It is by constantly being attentive to what God wishes that allows that apostolic flexibility, which is sorely needed in today's troubled times.