Arturo Sosa

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Arturo Sosa

Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Arturo Sosa in January 2017.jpg
Sosa in January 2017
Installed14 October 2016
Predecessor Adolfo Nicolás
Ordination30 July 1977
Personal details
Birth nameArturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal
Born (1948-11-12) 12 November 1948 (age 72)
Caracas, Venezuela
Alma mater

Arturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal SJ (born 12 November 1948) is a Venezuelan priest who is the thirty-first and present Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was elected Superior General by the Society's 36th General Congregation on 14 October 2016, succeeding Adolfo Nicolás. He is the first person born in Latin America to lead the Jesuits.


Early life and education

Arturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal was born in Caracas, Venezuela, on 12 November 1948, [1] the son of Arturo Sosa, Sr. a prestigious businessman who served twice as finance minister in 1958 and 1982. [2] He entered the Society of Jesus in 1966 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977. [1] He earned a licentiate in philosophy from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in 1972, and a doctorate in political science from the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1990. [3] [4]

Priestly ministry

Sosa has held a number of positions in various universities. He was a professor and member of the Council of the foundation for the Andrés Bello Catholic University, and rector of the Catholic University of Tachira, both Jesuit universities. [4] He was also the Chair of Contemporary Political Theory and the Department of Social Change at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Venezuela. [4] He published a number of works, mainly about the history and politics of Venezuela. He was also coordinator of the social apostolate and director of Centro Gumilla in Venezuela, a centre of research and social action for the Jesuits in Venezuela, [4] as well as editor-in-chief of Revista SIC magazine for Catholic social ethics and politics from 1976 to 1996. [5] In 2004, he was professor of Venezuelan political thinking at the Catholic University of Tachira and was invited to Georgetown University Center for Latin American Studies as a visiting professor to give a lecture. [6]

Between 1996 and 2004, Sosa was Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Venezuela. [4] During the 35th General Congregation in 2008, he was appointed Counselor General by then-Superior General Adolfo Nicolás. [4] In 2014, he joined the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome as Delegate for Interprovincial Roman Houses of the Society of Jesus in Rome, which include institutions such as the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Pontifical Oriental Institute, the Vatican Observatory, and La Civiltà Cattolica . [4] [7]

In Venezuela, he was strongly committed to left-wing politics, and was critical of the country's representative democracy in the 1990s. He supported the two coups d'état of Hugo Chavez, though he later distanced himself from Chavez following human rights violations. [8]

Sosa speaks Spanish, Italian and English, and understands French. [4]

Superior General of the Society of Jesus

On 14 October 2016, during the thirty-sixth General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, the assembly elected Sosa as the Order's thirty-first Superior General to succeed Adolfo Nicolás. [6] He became the first Latin American to head the Jesuits. [9] In his first address as Superior General, he said that Jesuits should look for "alternatives to overcome poverty, inequality and oppression" and also to collaborate with others "inside and outside the Church". [8]

In 2017, in a visit to the Jesuit mission in Cambodia, Sosa met with a group of Buddhist monks in the Buddhist-majority country. [10] In 2018, commenting on the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Sosa disagreed with the synod's description of secularization as "a dark phase that is in the process of being overcome", instead calling secularization a "sign of the times" for the Catholic Church. [11]

In February 2019, after guiding Jesuits and their lay collaborators through two years of discernment, Sosa announced four priorities that would guide the Society's decisions for the next decade. These were: teaching discernment through use of the Spiritual Exercises, walking with the poor in their quest for dignity and justice, accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future, and collaborating in the care of our Common Home. Pope Francis declared these priorities to be very much in line with those of his pontificate. [12]


The Catholic Herald criticised Sosa for being one of over 1,000 signatories of a 1989 letter welcoming Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to Venezuela in 1989, Castro having repressed the Catholic Church in Cuba during his time in power. [13] George Neumayr of the conservative American Spectator described Sosa as a "Marxist", "a Venezuelan communist, and modernist". [14]

In February 2017, in response to Cardinal Müller's argument that permitting the reception of Communion by the remarried contradicts Jesus's words in the Bible that marriage is indissoluble and Müller's insistence that those words are unchangeable, Sosa argued for a "reflection on what Jesus really said", and described the Gospel as "relative", being "written by human beings" and "accepted by [...] human beings". Sosa also argued that the doctrine of the Church is in "continuous development", and "never in white and black". [15] Sosa's remarks drew criticism in the Italian media. [16]

The English priest and consulting editor of The Catholic Herald Alexander Lucie-Smith disagreed with Sosa, arguing that the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage has been historically consistent, and that there was no precedent set in the Bible to interpret these words otherwise. [17] Theologian Chad Pecknold criticised Sosa's views as "reflect[ing] a profound skepticism about Holy Scripture", countering that although a variety of interpretations are allowed, they must "fit with the established doctrine of the Church and do not contradict the deposit of the Faith". Contradicting Sosa's own claim that his views were "not relativism", [15] Pecknold characterised Sosa's remarks as "historicist relativizing". [18]

Catholic author Vittorio Messori accused Sosa of "'liquefying' the Gospel itself" by suggesting that the Gospel should be adapted according to the times on the basis that Jesus’s words were not recorded verbatim or "on tape". [19]

In June 2017, in an interview with El Mundo, Sosa said, "We have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil. Social conditioning can also represent this figure, since there are people who act [in an evil way] because they are in an environment where it is difficult to act to the contrary". This was criticised as contradicting the Catechism of the Catholic Church which teaches that the Devil is a real creature. [20] A spokesman for Sosa later argued that Sosa was not denying church teaching, saying, "to say the devil symbolizes evil is not to deny the existence of the devil." [21] On 21 August 2019, Sosa declared in an interview that the Devil "exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because [he] is not a person, [he] is a way of acting evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life. [...] Good and evil are in a permanent war in the human conscience and we have ways to point them out. We recognize God as good, fully good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality." Catholic World Report criticized these declarations, saying they were contrary to the catechism, and reminded of the controversy of the June 2017 statement of Sosa concerning the Devil. [22]

In October 2018, in an interview with EWTN, Sosa argued that "the pope is not the chief of the Church, he's the Bishop of Rome". This was opposed by Pecknold, who argued that it would be wrong to believe that Pope was "merely 'first among equals' ", and insisted that the pope has "supreme authority" over all bishops and the faithful. [23]


Sosa has authored about a dozen books on politics and on the history of Venezuela, including:

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  1. 1 2 "Arturo Sosa SJ - Jesuits in Britain".
  2. "Le père Arturo Sosa, nouveau supérieur général des jésuites". Radio Vaticana. 14 October 2016. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  3. "WITNESS Interview with Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ Superior General of the Society of Jesus - Gregorian University Foundation". 26 May 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Father Arturo Sosa SJ, 31st General of the Society of Jesus". Jesuits, General Congregation 36. 14 October 2016. Archived from the original on 14 October 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  5. Spadaro, SI, Antonio (14 October 2016). "Fr. Arturo Sosa, Venezolano, es el nuevo Padre General de la Compañía de Jesús" . Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  6. 1 2 henke (28 October 2016). "Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, Elected 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus". University of San Francisco.
  7. Press, Europa (14 October 2016). "El venezolano Arturo Sosa Abascal, nuevo superior general de los Jesuitas". (in Spanish). Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  8. 1 2 Senèze, Nicolas (10 October 2016). "Le P. Arturo Sosa, un général social à la tête des jésuites". La Croix (in French). Archived from the original on 29 April 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  9. Harris, Elise (14 October 2016). "Venezuelan Fr. Arturo Sosa elected as new head of Jesuit order". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  10. "We are united in our desire to promote peace and reconciliation, says Fr Sosa after first dialogue with Buddhists". Jesuit Asia Pacific Congress. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  11. "Secularization can help the Church proclaim the Gospel, superior general of Jesuits says". Catholic News Service. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  12. "Pope Francis approves four priorities for the Jesuits' next decade". America Magazine. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  13. "Jesuit Superior General 'signed letter praising Fidel Castro in 1989' |". 19 May 2017. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  14. "The Pope's Marxist Head of the Jesuits". The American Spectator. 19 May 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  15. 1 2 Rusconi, Giuseppe (18 February 2017). "GESUITI/PADRE SOSA: PAROLE DI GESU'? DA CONTESTUALIZZARE!". (in Italian). Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  16. "Marriage and Divorce. The General of the Jesuits: "Jesus Too Must Be Reinterpreted"". Settimo Cielo (in Italian). Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  17. Lucie-Smith, Alexander (24 February 2017). "Sorry, Fr Sosa, but we must take Jesus literally on marriage". The Catholic Herald. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  18. Pecknold, C.C. (24 February 2017). "Suppressing Jesuits, Suppressing Jesus: Fr. Sosa's surprising words on Christ's own words". Aleteia. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  19. "Prominent Catholic writer criticises Pope for creating 'liquid society' Church". 8 November 2017. Archived from the original on 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  20. "Jesuit superior general: 'We have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil' |". 1 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  21. "Spokesman for Jesuit chief: Devil remarks must be read in context". 8 June 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  22. "Jesuit superior general: Satan is a 'symbolic reality'". Catholic World Report. 21 August 2019. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  23. "Jesuit superior says pope is not the 'chief' of the Church- What did he mean?". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Adolfo Nicolás
Superior General of the Society of Jesus