Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 15:19:40 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: RELIGION-LATAM: Pope sez Liberation Theology Dead
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Liberation Theology Dead and Gone?
By Diego Cevallos, IPS, 26 January 1999
MEXICO CITY, Jan 26 (IPS) - Liberation theology and indigenous issues are two streams that run together in Latin America today, claimed one Catholic faction here, trying to drown the noise of others stating both are dead and buried for ever.
Pope John Paul's recent visit to Mexico reawakened the controversy, with the first view aired by Bishop of the Mexican state of Chiapas, Samuel Ruiz - the so-called "Bishop of the Indians - and the second by representatives of conservative groups like the antiabortion Pro Vida.
Controversy in the Latin American Catholic Church, with confrontations between several bishops and a rash of resignations amongst the clergy - like Brazil's Leonardo Boff, one of the founders of Liberation Theology - raised its head again Tuesday, as the Pope brought a five-day visit to a close.
John Paul II presented his apostolic message in Mexico - product of a Synod of American Bishops held in late 1997 in Rome aimed as a guide for the continent's Catholic Church in the coming century.
The document identifies "social sins," vouches for excluded and indigenous peoples and criticises "neoliberalism" and globalisation, terms and concepts much used by followers of Liberation Theology.
In Mexico, the Pope confirmed the role of the indigenous people and poor in political and social integration and did not condemn either Liberation or Indigenous Theology, said Bishop Ruiz, after warning that anyone saying otherwise had misinterpreted the statement.
In the aeroplane which brought him to Mexico, the Pope declared "there is consideration of substituting Liberation Theology with Indigenous Theology, which would be the translation, the inspiration of Marxism, and the Church obviously does not agree and proposes another path, which is that of solidarity and dialogue."
For Jorge Serrano, representative of Pro Vida, a conservative Catholic group with branches in several countries of Latin America, the social content of the Church's discourse must not be confused with "leftism."
Liberation Theology was buried a long time ago by the Pope, as it is built on the concepts of materialism and class struggle, said Serrano - a statment well in line with what representatives of the conservative wing of the Church have said in the past.
When visiting Central America in 1996, Pope John Paul II said that "the era of Liberation Theology" ended with the fall of Communism in the world.
But despite these words, some followers of this current are still active within the Latin American Church - for this was the region which first produced Liberation Theology in the sixties, based on the social considerations raised by the Second Vatican Council, a strain which flourished spectacularly in the seventies and eighties.
Priests affiliated to Liberation Theology fought against the Somoza family dictatorship in Nicaragua and then took public posts in the Sandinista government, earning them a harsh reprimand from the Pope and the suspension of their religious vows.
Then there were Bishop Oscar Romero - who campaigned for the poor of El Salvador earning him assassination at the hands of a death squad in 1980 - and Bishop Leonidas Proano - taken prisoner and persecuted by the military in the seventies for his support the indigenous people.
Liberation theologists lobby to free people from poverty, and they oppose to religion directing its doctrine only to the internal and individual concerns of believers.
Supporters of the tendency today include Bishop Ruiz, of Chiapas, whom the Vatican has reprimanded several times for his alleged "deviations," Brazil's Pedro Casaldaliga and one of the two vicepresidents of the Latin American Episcopal Council, Luciano Mendez de Almeida, another Brazilian.
"The analysis of Liberation Theology must be broadened because it is a reality and because the oppressed do not have the chance to promote themselves," Mendez de Almeida declared to Catholic magazine "30 Giorni" in 1995.
However, Mexican bishop Javier Lozano sustains that, given the failure of Marxism, "it would be the height of foolishness, ignorance or the malice of some religious leaders to continue sustaining Liberation Theology."
And the argument will go on, say analysts, and for as long as there is poverty and marginalisation in Latin America, the Catholic Church will be a living and contradictory institution.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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