Image via RNS/Rev. Don Doll

The Rev. Arturo Sosa, 67, is Venezuelan and was chosen in a secret ballot by 212 electors at the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in Rome, after a lengthy four-day voting process.

The order’s vicar, the Rev. James E. Grummer, announced on Oct. 14 that Sosa had won a majority of votes and proclaimed him superior general of the order, the first Latin American to hold the post, much as Pope Francis, also a Jesuit, is the first Latin American elected to the papacy.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Savita Kirloskar

The Rev. James Martin is a Jesuit priest and popular author who wrote about his lifelong fascination with the saints and the many aspects of sainthood in the Catholic tradition in the best-selling book My Life With the Saints.

Loyola Press is issuing a 10th anniversary edition of Martin’s memoir in September, which also coincides with the Sept. 4 canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who even during her lifetime – she died in 1997 – was regarded by millions as a “living saint” for her work with the destitute in India and around the world.

Jim Wallis 07-29-2016

Celebratory balloons fall from the ceiling of the convention hall as the Democratic National Convention concludes.

Last night, Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major party. She also answered the important question of why she has committed her life to public service

Image via Max Rossi/REUTERS/RNS

Figuring out why Pope Francis has upended so many expectations and what he might be contemplating for the future of the Catholic Church has become a parlor game almost as popular as the pontiff himself.

A single key can unlock these questions: Francis’ long-standing identity as a Jesuit priest.

It’s an all-encompassing personal and professional definition that the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio brought with him from Buenos Aires, and one that continues to shape almost everything he does as pope — even though he is the first pontiff to take his name from the 13th century Italian monk from Assisi who was famous for living with the poor and preaching to the animals.

“He may act like a Franciscan but he thinks like a Jesuit,” quipped the Rev. Thomas Reese, a fellow Jesuit who is a columnist for National Catholic Reporter.

giulio napolitano /

Pope Francis celebrating Via Crucis in Rome on April 18, giulio napolitano /

The latest dust-up about the unscripted words of Pope Francis came this week when he tweeted, in Latin, “Inequality is the root of social evil.” Conservative Catholics had their underwear in a bundle, nervously tweeting away about the dangers of addressing complex issues on Twitter, and warning about thinking that “redistribution” would solve global inequities. Some feared this was giving Thomas Piketty’s new popular book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, more press. Liberal Catholics were delightfully surprised, once again, and argued that the pope was doing nothing more than putting Catholic social teaching into a tweet.

But this latest interchange, happening of course between Catholics in the global “North,” misses the real point.

Cardinals enter “Pro Eligendo Pontifice” Mass, St. Peter’s Basilica, March 12, 2013, at Vatican. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Could a woman vote for the next pope?

Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants to see greater roles for women in the Catholic Church, and some argue that he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals – the select and (so far) all-male club of “Princes of the Church” that casts secret ballots in a conclave to elect a new pope.

Whether it’s even possible is a matter of debate. But that hasn’t stopped the feverish speculation, which was sparked last month by an article in a Spanish newspaper in which Juan Arias, a former priest who writes from Brazil, wrote that the idea “is not a joke. It’s something that Pope Francis has thought about before: naming a woman cardinal.”

Pope Francis waving. RNS art by Barbara Weeks, Chicago, Ill. (Watercolor)

Pope Francis’ comments last week on everything from gays to abortion (less talk, more mercy), the hierarchy (be pastors, not bureaucrats), and religious faith (doubt is part of belief) continue to reverberate through the church and the media.

Here are five broader insights that this wide-ranging interview revealed about Francis — and why they will be keys to reading his pontificate, and perhaps the future of Catholicism.

RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini.

Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

VATICAN CITY — A hierarchy looking to make a clear statement about where the troubled church is headed chose on Wednesday the first member of the influential Jesuit order to be the next pope. Yet they also chose Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a humble man who lives simply and took the name Francis (also a first) that evokes the founder of another great religious order.

The College of Cardinals picked the first non-European in modern times, as well – yet he is the son of Italian immigrants and grew up in Argentina, perhaps the most European of any country in Latin America.

And the cardinals above all wanted a pastoral figure who would project an image of vigor and warmth to the world after the eight-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI — an introverted, gaffe-prone German theologian who was 78 when he was elected and retired last month at 85, saddled by the burdens of this very public office.

Yet in his stead they chose a soft-spoken a 76-year-old who has been rapped for rarely cracking a smile — an image that Bergoglio did little to dispel with his low-key introduction as Pope Francis to the expectant crowd in St. Peter’s Square on a rainy Roman evening.

“Buona sera,” Francis said in deliberate, word perfect Italian, with just a slight Spanish accent. “You all know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals have come almost to the ends of the earth to get him … but here we are.”

So what, in fact, does the election of Francis say about the Catholic Church at this point in its history?

the Web Editors 01-08-2012

In this segment from his new CatholicTV series "Blinks," the Rev. Jim Martin (aka our favorite Jesuit) considers why Christianity is often considered so joyless, and why "religious" usually means serious.

Watch inside...

George Mitrovich 01-19-2011
Sargent Shriver was one of the most attractive, dynamic, and accomplished men of his time. When President John F. Kennedy chose Mr.
John Gehring 03-24-2010

While it's generally not worth spilling any ink over Glenn Beck, his recent attacks on churches that preach "social justice" has rightly earned the condemnation of diverse faith leaders

Joseph Mulligan 12-09-2009
The following is part of the author´s "jail journal," written in early 2004 while he was serving a 90-day sentence in Georgia for having "crossed the line" at Ft.
Cesar Baldelomar 03-24-2009

Twenty-nine years ago today, a Salvadorian government hit man assassinated Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero as he was saying Mass in a convent. News of Romero's assassination sparked a slew of global responses -- from sadness and outrage to impartiality.

Jennifer Svetlik 11-19-2008

Last spring, I made a pilgrimage to rural El Salvador to learn about the violence that had occurred there during the U.S-supported Salvadoran Civil War. The journey became a sacred one for me my first evening there, in the home of my host Florinda.