Monday, March 2, 2009

A Theological Mercosur: Building the Kingdom from the Bottom Up

We are often not aware of what is going on theologically south of the Rio Grande so I found this article from the Argentinian newspaper La Gaceta very interesting and have translated it into English to share with others.

Organizing a religious Mercosur
by Guillermo Villareal
La Gaceta (Argentina)
February 28, 2009

BUENOS AIRES.- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo's idea of forming a religious roundtable of Mercosur member countries is taking shape, despite the fact that the financial crisis is shaking the global and regional economies and forcing them to extend social safety nets. The initiative aims to introduce religion into the political, social and economic debate in order to give a human and populist face to the trading bloc formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and which also includes Chile and Bolivia as partners and a pending application from Venezuela that is awaiting a response.

"Because of the examples of bad financial management that we see at the summit of the world it would be very good for people from the south to find a human face for Mercosur, because it is less important to find a common currency than a decent place to live, seeking to overcome the asymmetries in the social sphere," Lugo explained in launching the proposal in late January in Belém, Brazil, during the World Social Forum. A government spokesman explained that the Guaraní former prelate personally invited religious representatives in the region for an ecumenical meeting in Asunción on March 12 and 13. Among others, invitations were extended to the Brazilian theologians Leonardo Boff, who Lugo considers to be his spiritual father, and Carlos Alberto Libanio Christo, also known as "Frei Betto", both liberation theology ideologues.

Sociologist Mallimaci Fortunato was summoned from Argentina, and he described the Paraguayan president's proposal as "very important for changing, from the religious perspective, the prevailing system of injustice in the region." "It is not easy, but it is a challenge," the investigator for CONICET confided. As it transpired, the Argentinian Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel was also invited. However, it drew attention in religious circles that Bishop Emeritus Joaquín Piña of Puerto Iguazú, who is close to Lugo, was not asked. "I am praying for him, that it will go well," said Piña, who ventured into politics in 2006 to defend democracy and offered in Misiones the first defeat to an ally of kirchnerismo .

The two days in March will serve as an initial discussion on four themes: "Laws on worship: relationship with the State", "Religious citizenship: the role of religion in the social and political framework", "Social differences: wealth and poverty" and "The defense of the environment from the perspective of faith." Topics that will later be debated in each country, under the coordination of the regional secretariat of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), whose director is Pastor Juan Gattinoni.

The next step will be to bring the agreed-upon religious proposals to the summit of heads of state scheduled for next June in Asunción, because it is the presidents and chancellors who should implement them institutionally, Mallimaci clarified.

Thus Lugo is trying to raise the banner of a renewed liberation theology, the same one he was able to fly during his years as priest and bishop in the impoverished areas of Paraguay.

This theological current had its culmination in the 70s, when its followers were confronting the military dictatorships and taking the side of the oppressed of the continent. In spite of this, it earned the condemnation of the Vatican and the bishops for its Marxist ideological deviation.

This group of theologians, with Lugo and Mercosur at the helm, will attempt -- as Boff and Frei Betto imagine -- policy-making in capital letters in favor of the oppressed, because, taking Jesus as a model, they believe that "now more than ever it is necessary to build the kingdom from the bottom up."

Photos: Leonardo Boff and Fernando Lugo


  1. Leonardo Boff has always been one of my heroes! I have read and reread many of his works. This article give me a lift! Thanks for translating. I know that can be an arduous task.

  2. You're welcome, Rubi. You know that Leonardo has a trilingual Web site: Also look for a translation of another recent interview with him on this blog today. I too like the liberation theologians and do these translations to make their words available to English-speaking audiences.