Jesuit Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, a member of the Jesuits' Venezuelan province, was elected the first non-European superior general of the Society of Jesus Oct. 14.
The 212 voting delegates to the Jesuit general congregation elected Sosa, 67. He succeeds Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, 80, who had asked to resign because of his age.
Pope Francis was informed of the election of Sosa before the Jesuits announced it publicly.
The election came after four days of prayer, silence and quiet one-on-one conversations among the voting delegates, who were chosen to represent the more than 16,000 Jesuits around the world.
Related: "Jesuits will elect order's new superior general at global meeting" (Sept. 27, 2016)
In an interview Oct. 7 about the pre-election phase of the congregation, Sosa said delegates gathered come from different countries, but they share a common culture linked to their experience of the Ignatian spiritual exercises and practices of discernment. "We have a long tradition and a strong desire to listen to the same voice, that is the voice of the Holy Spirit," he said in an interview published on the Jesuits' gc36.org website.
Sosa was born in Caracas, Nov. 12, 1948. He joined the Jesuits in 1966 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977.
Prior to the election, he was Nicolas' delegate for the international houses and works of the Society of Jesus in Rome. He has a doctorate in political science from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He speaks Spanish, Italian, English and understands French, according to a press release from the Jesuits.
The resignation of Nicolas and the election of Sosa came during the order's 36th general congregation, which began Oct. 2. After the election, the gathering was to continue as delegates focus on questions of Jesuit identity and governance, vocations, mission and collaboration with the laity.