VATICAN CITY: For the first time in its almost 500-year history, the Roman Catholic Jesuit order on Friday (Saturday in Manila) elected a non-European as its leader, a post informally known as the “black pope.”
Arturo Sosa, 67, a Venezuelan with a doctorate in political science, was chosen as the 36th superior general of the Society of Jesus after a four-day conclave, said the order, whose members include Pope Francis.
“And the white pope (Francis) and the black pope are from Latin America,” tweeted South African cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier in reaction to the election, taken by secret ballot.
The informal title of the Jesuits’ leader derives from the color of his simple priest’s vestments.
Sosa succeeds Spaniard Adolfo Nicolas, who stepped down at the age of 80.
Like the wider Catholic church, the Jesuits, founded in 1540, are losing ground in Europe and now recruit members mainly in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In keeping with the strictures of their founder, Ignatius of Loyola, the 215-strong electorate – drawn from 62 countries – spent four days meeting, near St. Peter’s square in Rome, only in pairs, a measure designed to prevent lobby groups emerging in favor of specific individuals.
Jesuits are forbidden from putting themselves forward as black pope candidates and from campaigning.