Latin America is making its mark among leaders in church circles.
First to assume a greater role in the global church community was Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Though born and ordained priest in Ukraine, he served as auxiliary bishop of the Eparchy of Santa María del Patrocinio en Buenos Aires, Argentina where he was consecrated bishop on April 7, 2009. On March 23, 2011, he was elected Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to replace the retired Lubomyr Husar. He has continued to play a major role in the Ukrainian Church since.
In Argentina he was a friend of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires. Bergoglio came to world attention when he was elected pope on Feb. 28, 2013. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Gregory III, who died in 741. He took the name Pope Francis in honour of St. Francis of Assisi. He continues to make global headlines almost daily.
This month another South American has come to global attention. Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa Abascal of Venezuela was elected the 31st superior general of the Society of Jesus at the Jesuits’ General Congregation 36 in Rome Oct. 14. Sosa will now lead the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. There are 16,740 Jesuits worldwide. He is the first Latin American to hold the post. Sosa succeeds Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, a Spaniard who resigned at the age of 80 after serving since 2008.
Commenting on the significance of Sosa’s Latin American background, Rev. Timothy P. Kesicki, president of the U.S. Jesuit conference, said: “Latin America has always been a very strong Catholic region in the world. Coming from Latin America is important, but he’s the best person for the job. He has a clear command, is consultational and a visionary.”
He added that the election of Sosa reflects the global demographic shift in the church, and in the Society of Jesus in particular. Nearly 60 per cent of the delegates to this year’s congregation came from the Global South, from Africa to Latin America.
Last Sunday, Oct. 16, another significant Latin American was one of seven new saints Pope Francis declared at a mass in St. Peter’s Square. Argentine “gaucho priest” St. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero was portrayed sitting on a donkey, his humble means of transportation when travelling thousands of miles to minister to the poor and the sick and building schools, churches and 125 miles of roads. He became know as the Gaucho Priest because he always wore a poncho and sombrero, like a “gaucho,” an Argentinian cowboy.
Brochero, one of Argentina’s most famous Catholics during Pope Francis’ youth, suffered leprosy that left him blind until his death in 1914. Days after his death, the Catholic newspaper of Cordoba wrote, “It is known that Fr. Brochero contracted the sickness that took him to his tomb, because he visited at length and embraced an abandoned leper of the area.” He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013. At the time, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Argentina’s bishops praising Brochero for having had the “smell of his sheep.”
“He never stayed in the parish office. He got on his mule and went out to find people like a priest of the street, to the point of getting leprosy,” Pope Francis wrote.
During the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII appealed to North America and Europe to help the church in Latin America. The favour is now being repaid.