Fr. Arturo Sosa is one day old today as the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus! At 11:25am yesterday, 14 October, he was declared elected. Pope Francis was immediately informed. At 11:35am the Vicar General proclaimed the “Decree of Election.” At 11:40am, the new General made his profession of faith. And so begins a new mission, a new life, for this man who turns 68 next month.
As we exchanged pleasantries while vesting in the sacristy of the Church of the Gesù this morning, a Jesuit from one part of the world said to another from a different continent, “In my place there are two ways of saying good morning: (1) ‘Good morning, Lord’ or (2) ‘Good Lord, what a morning’!” In the meantime, the new General was upstairs, praying silently in the chapel of the Rooms of St. Ignatius before being presented with two books: The Formula of the Institute and The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.
Fr. General then led us in a simple but solemn Eucharistic celebration, flanked by the immediate past General, Adolfo Nicolás, and former Vicar General, Jim Grummer. For the first time in our 476 years of Jesuit history, we now have three men living who bear, or have had, the title of Superior General—Arturo Sosa, Adolfo Nicolás and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.
In a moving ceremony after communion, the new General processed to the remains of the First General of the Society, to the Altar of St. Ignatius. He lit the oil lamp, and prayed to the Most Holy Trinity: “As sons of St. Ignatius, while we realize the vocation which you have chosen and willed for us, we ask you for the ability to see all things with your eyes, to discern and test the spirits, and to read the signs of the times with our hearts set on the joys of heaven, so that we can be wise in communicating the faith.” Following this prayer, the striking painting of St. Ignatius under the Banner of the Cross was slowly lowered, revealing the magnificent image of Ignatius in glory. As we all stood in front of St. Ignatius in prayer to ask for and obtain his blessings, behind us was the visible arm of St. Francis Xavier, interceding for and also blessing us!
St. Ignatius gathered us into this least Society honoured by the name of Jesus. Today we gather around our Father Ignatius to give thanks for and with our new Superior General. For Ignatius, it is always important for us to express our gratitude. In fact, ingratitude is a grave matter! As Fr. Arturo Sosa was going back to the sacristy at the end of this Mass of Thanksgiving, our 31st Superior General stopped to pray at a small chapel—the chapel that houses the remains of three great Jesuits: St. Joseph Pignatelli, Fr. Jan Roothaan (the 21st Superior General) and Fr. Pedro Arrupe (the 28th Superior General).
Chuks Afiawari, S.J.