A surprising development...NOT!
By Denisse Charpentier (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Radio Bio Bio
Father Marco Arana, aspiring to be a candidate in the 2011 presidential election, was suspended from his priestly duties by the Peruvian Catholic hierarchy for involvement in political activities, the priest said Wednesday.
"Since January I have been suspended from priestly functions," the priest said during a press conference. He is the leader of the Tierra y Libertad movement, an organization which, according to its founder, works to defend environmental rights and social justice.
Arana, who calls himself a follower of liberation theology, stated that his actions in defense of the indigenous communities who are opposing multinational oil and mineral companies have not been favorably viewed by the conservative wing of the Church and the Peruvian Right.
From the beginning of his social activism he has been the target of criticism from "a conservative segment in the Peruvian Church that is not the majority but is very powerful," he explained.
After announcing the foundation of his movement last year, Arana was criticized by Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, a member of Opus Dei and a visible figure among the ultra conservative sector of the local clergy, who condemned his leftist attitude. Arana answered his critics and reaffirmed his position.
"They asked me to apologize to the Cardinal, but I refused because I did not disrespect him, rather I just disagreed with him," he said.
The priest said that the suspension of his priestly activity "does not mean a step back in his convictions and his Christian faith," noting that his choice of social justice and environmental protection is a response to "the winds of change in order to rediscover the message of the church in its commitment to the poorest."
Tierra y Libertad will hold its first congress in June during which Arana has the first option to be elected as candidate for the presidency in 2011.