Jesuit superior laments ‘destruction’ in his Venezuelan homeland

Jesuit superior laments ‘destruction’ in his Venezuelan homeland

Pope Francis with Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, and Spanish journalist Dario Menor, as they present him with the book "Walking with Ignatius." (Credit: courtesy Company of Jesus.)

In a new interview book, the head of the Jesuits acknowledged that he “cries” for what is happening in his home country, Venezuela.

ROME – In a new interview book, the head of the Jesuits acknowledged that he “cries” for what is happening in his home country, Venezuela.

“Free and transparent elections could begin [the much needed] change and mark a before and after,” said Father Arturo Sosa. “A strong obstacle is that the opposition is very fragmented. I do not take away any merit from them, because there are people who have put their necks on the line and have done many right things, but in others they have been wrong and have made mistakes.”

Throughout the interview book Walking with Ignatius, written with Spanish journalist Dario Menor, the superior general of the Society of Jesus does not hide his pain over what’s happening in his homeland, noting that Venezuela has been collapsing since 2002, after a general strike against President Hugo Chavez, who had been in power since 1992.

“I never imagined that so much could be destroyed,” Sosa says, reflecting on the past four decades of Venezuela’s political, economic and social freefall.

The book was presented in Rome on Tuesday ahead of the opening of the Ignatian Year on May 20, when the Jesuits will mark this year the 500th anniversary of the conversion of its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

In the book, Sosa revisits different stages of his life: From his childhood in Venezuela, political interests and Jesuit vocation, to his social engagements and academic work in the Society of Jesus, of which he became Superior General in 2016.

“I wrote the book because I want to share the Risen Christ’s hope and joy with people,” Sosa said in a statement. “Every Saturday for about twelve weeks I met with Darío who confronted me with many questions. This led to a very rich interaction about how Ignatian Spirituality can impact our world and about how the questions of the world and the crying needs of humankind can be addressed by the Society of Jesus, by the Church and by all other faith traditions.”

“It has been an adventure, a journey – at times challenging – in which I have learned so much,” he said. “I’m convinced that facing questions honestly and trying to answer them with our friends, families and our faith community is the way forward to a deeper and more fulfilled life, to a life of greater solidarity that is more in tune with the dream that God has for our world.”

The book was originally written in Spanish but is also available in English, Portuguese, French, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Tamil, Vietnamese and Arabic.

During the book’s presentation in the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome, Torres described it as an “instrument, a guidebook that accompanies the events of the Ignatian year.”

The journalist highlighted two key traits of Sosa: His revindication of politics and his positive outlook on life, society, and even the Church.

“In many countries, it would seem like crazy to revendicate politics, when it seems that only those who are corrupt – or corruptible – want to enter politics,” Torres said. And when Sosa speaks about the importance of politics, he also urges Christians to be active in their country’s political life.

“Christians are also citizens and must not only be concern but also concern ourselves with the common good, so the Church cannot fail to have an active voice in public life,” Sosa says in chapter 4. “No one disputes that Caritas, the apostolic work that coordinates the Church’s social promotion and assistance service, distributes food to the needy, but it seems surprising when the Church, basing itself on the same Human Rights, opposes some law that it considers unjust.”

“If we do not participate in public life, we would be pure, yes, but pure ‘idiots’, as Greek antiquity considered those who disregarded their political and civic commitment, putting their particular interests before the interests of society,” Sosa said. “We do not want a Church of ‘idiots’, but one that leads us to be more political, better citizens, caring for others and the common good. That is why we talk so much about justice, reconciliation and peace.”

The journalist posed 270 question to Sosa, touching on many different issues, including the best way to address the ongoing “third world war fought at piecemeal,” the “benefits and challenges” the Society faces by having a Jesuit pope, the impact of COVID on capitalism, his position on abortion and euthanasia, and what he would say to those who consider themselves Catholics but reject the Church.

“Faith in Christ leads you to go out of yourself and share it with others; it cannot be separated from belonging to the community that is the Church,” Sosa answered to the latter. “That does not mean that you cannot be critical of it. Precisely the saints were so, proposing ways of life that would improve it.”

“The person who distances himself from the Church has every reason to reject what has caused him scandal, but it is necessary to see how he moves from that experience to an effort to improve the Church, to complement his personal faith in God with membership in a community generated from the Eucharist,” he said.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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