Venezuelan Father Arturo Sosa Abascal has been chosen as the new head of the Society of Jesus, becoming the first Latin American superior general in the history of the order.

The 68 year old Jesuit was elected at the order's 36th General Congregation and will succeed Spanish Father Adolfo Nicolas, 80, who stepped down last week after serving eight years as superior general.

Born in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, Father Sosa has a doctorate in political sciences and from 1996 until 2004 was the provincial general of the Jesuits in his native country.

In 2008, Father Nicolas chose him to be counselor general, and since 2014, he has worked in the Jesuit curia in Rome in charge of the interprovincial houses and works of the order. These include the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Vatican Observatory, as well as a number of international colleges and residences.

Before serving as provincial superior, he was coordinator of the social apostolate in Venezuela and director of the Jesuit Gumilla Center for research and social action in the Latin American country.

The Jesuit priest has held several academic positions, specialised in the field of political science, and published several works, especially on Venezuelan history and politics.

The choice of Father Sosa, who becomes the 30th successor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, confirms that the Society wishes to continue its vision and approach of the past 50 years, one of emphasising the poor, social justice and the people of God — an approach also being carried forward by Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from Latin America.

Known to be a man of “great spirituality”, Father Sosa has a deep knowledge of Venezuela, particularly its politics, and has built a good relationship with Cardinal Pietro Parolin who served as nuncio to Venezuela and is now Vatican Secretary of State.

He speaks Spanish, Italian, English and understands French.