This week Pope Benedict XVI met with the bishops of Regions 3 and 4 of Brazil during their ad limina visit to the Vatican. He used the opportunity to recall the 25th anniversary of the instruction on liberation theology, Libertatis nuntius, which he issued when he was still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document, the Pope reminded the bishops, "highlights the danger involved in the uncritical absorption, by certain theologians, of theses and methodologies that come from Marxism." He warned that the “more or less visible” scars of Marxist liberation theology, such as “rebellion, division, dissent, offenses, anarchy, are still being felt, causing great suffering and a grave loss of dynamic strength in your diocesan communities.” He urged all those who in some way feel attracted or affected by “certain deceitful principles of liberation theology” to re-visit the instruction and be open to the light that it can shed on the subject.
At least one observant journalist covering the audience did not believe that the Pope's words were coincidental. This person believes that His Holiness was specifically targeting Msgr. Luiz Carlos Eccel, the 57-year old bishop of Caçador, who has been an open and prominent defender of liberation theology. The author mentions in particular Bishop Eccel's Easter message to the faithful issued in March 2007 just before Aparecida:
Páscoa e teologia da libertação. We had never read this powerful pastoral letter and thank the anonymous author of the Religion en Libertad article for bringing it to our attention. Here is the English translation:
Easter and Liberation Theology
by Dom Luiz C. Eccel, Bishop of Caçador, Brasil, March 2007 (English translation by Rebel Girl)
I hear many people speak well and others not so well of liberation theology.
I don't own the truth, but from my experience I can state categorically that theology is liberating or it is not theology. Jesus became human to liberate humankind from all bondage. To deny liberation theology is to deny Jesus Christ, His gospel, His mission: "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all."
"He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.'" (Luke 4:14-19)
That is the foundation of the theology of liberation.
The true followers of Jesus do not have to ask themselves, in the mission, whether or not they are pleasing men, but rather God (cf. Gal 1:10).
"But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please human beings,but rather God, who judges our hearts." (1 Thess 2:4).
To evangelize means to do and teach as Jesus did and taught, putting our trust in Him.
Christianity, as Archbishop Oscar Romero said so well, is not a set of truths to be accepted or laws to be fulfilled. Christianity, above all, is a Person, Jesus Christ, who loves us and wants our love which should take the form of service to all people, but especially to the poor, the suffering and the excluded (Matt. 25:31 ff).
The theme of the Fifth CELAM is: "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus, so that all people may have life in Him."
Pope Benedict XVI was very happy to choose the theme, as Jesus said, "I came that they may have life." (Jn 10:10).
In Latin America, the Caribbean and in many other countries, a crowd of people live on the margins of the life that God wants for everyone and not only for the privileged few.
Thus it is more than logical that the Aparecida Conference will be faithful to Jesus Christ the Liberator, taking on an even greater commitment to being at the service of the favorites of God, the poor, who cry out for a life with dignity. The preferential option for the poor is an essential characteristic of our Church, especially the bishops' conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean. Who will have the courage to grieve the Spirit of God by distorting that which makes our Church noble?
Obviously no one wants to massacre the rich, but rather the sinful structures that create a privileged few at the expense of suffering and blood of an impoverished majority, that increase capital in the world, accumulated in the hands of a few. We are never on the side of poverty, but of the poor and with them, and with the certainty that the Lord is with us, we seek to do His Holy Will: Life for all people and not just for some individuals.
If we have risen with Christ we are new creatures, detached from all idolatry of possessions, power and pleasure, the source of death.
Risen with Christ, our mission is to commit ourselves like Him to the service of life, building a just and egalitarian society, without excluding anyone.
This task is urgent. Let us not run the risk of hearing the Lord say: "You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth?"(Galatians 5:7).
Let us assume the mission with courage so that on "that day" we will hear: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Mt 25:34).
It is clear that the task of fighting so that in Christ all people will have life goes beyond doctrines and laws, beyond the distribution of crumbs or purses ... It is to break definitively with the inequality that generates death and with the chains of injustice.
The fundamental reason that drives us to this mission comes from faith in the person of Jesus who conquered the world (Jn 16:33).