Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jon Sobrino Receives Honorary Doctorate from Valencia

Jesuit priest and theologian Jon Sobrino received yet another honorary doctorate yesterday, this time from the University of Valencia. Here is a translation of the press release:

Jesuit priest Jon Sobrino has received a communication on Monday of his nomination to "doctor honoris causa" by the University of Valencia from the hands of the rector, Francisco Tomás. The theologian was awarded the honorary doctorate by the Governing Council on September 29th but because of his poor health, was unable to attend the solemn ceremony in which the University highlights people who stand out by their relevant academic merit.

Sobrino studied theology at the University of St. Louis in the United States and engineering at the University of Frankfurt, and is considered one of the most qualified representatives of liberation theology. In the nomination, the president highlighted how the Jesuit theologian "has helped to develop an area of social thought from the ethical principle of partiality to the poor, hope and peace, which is food for thought, trains one to think and teaches how to think."

In his study of the Universidad Centro Americana (UCA), Sobrino kept up a deep and lively conversation with the rector, which might have served as a lecture for his investiture as Doctor Honoris Causa. "You have to communicate that goodness is possible because even though we know that the world cannot be built with this alone, without kindness and with selfishness, what will the world come to?", he asked. In El Salvador, "speaking of Jesus of Nazareth has a social impact and for that they killed thousands of people," he said, recalling the 75,000 victims of the massacres by the army and paramilitary groups against the peasant population and the Jesuits themselves.

The priest stressed that although military violence has disappeared, El Salvador remains the country of Latin America with more murders per capita, that a third of the population has been forced to emigrate and that it is one of the nations that is least talked about . "However," he asserted, "there are roots of humanization in its people which come from the Jesuit martyrs." Sobrino joked with the rector about the so-called electric forward of Valencia FC during the forties (Epi, Amadeo, Mundo, Asensi and Gorostiza) which led him to reflect about soccer and the world's poor. "A man who plays soccer gets paid 94 million euros," he said remembering one of the most high-profile signings in the Spanish league. "What is sin?", he asked. "Sin is what kills and when I read in Marca that in a game between Madrid and Lazio there were 700 million euros on the field, I could not avoid consulting an economics yearbook and verifying that this amount is twice the national budget of countries like Chad."

Red Roses

Sobrino showed the rector the garden where Father Ignacio Ellacuría (rector of the UCA) was murdered along with five other Jesuits and two employees of the university. A garden of black earth, where eight red roses now bloom and that has become a center of pilgrimage. The priest gave the rector his book "No Salvation Outside the Poor", a work the writing of which gave him "great distress". "I am still uneasy," he confessed, "but I know that if I had not written it, it would have been worse." "Sometimes we Jesuits aren't lying," he said sarcastically.

The figure of the former rector of the UCA deserved special reflection. Although there is increasing recognition of the assassinated Ellacuría, there is also a forgotten Ellacuría for whom the most difficult task of our time is "reversing history, subverting it and throwing it in another direction," in order to heal "a seriously ill civilization" and "thus avoid a fateful and fatal outcome." According to Sobrino, there are three themes from Ellacuría that have been neglected. The first is the crucified people - the ultimate sign of the times - who must be lowered from the cross, knowing that one may end up on the cross oneself. The second is to work for a civilization of poverty, in opposition to and overcoming the one of wealth that is responsible for the prevailing disease of civilization. The third are his words "In Romero, God visited El Salvador," which, according to Sobrino, "refer to something intimate and beneficial" that made itself present "in the advocates for the victims." "With Romero, we saw pure love," he said, evoking the figure of the bishop killed by the extreme right to recall that "there are not enough people who say we want to do good because it is what makes us more human."

Sobrino also reflected on the role of the official church and the church hierarchy. "Hierarchy," he recalled, means sacred power, but that power doesn't produce good; here in Latin America, the Church is a very good social force, but in Spain, it's a disaster." The priest called for" an authentic conversion that turns everything inside out" because "there is hope." He said of the work of his murdered fellow Jesuits that it remained a testimony that "goodness was possible" because "it's bad when it is decided that there's no room for kindness."

The rector, who was accompanied by the general secretary of the University, Marisa Contri, and the vice-rector for Institutional Relations and Cooperation, Rosa Moliner, is supposed to inaugurate a regional health center in San Salvador today, driven by the University of Valencia in collaboration with other institutions.

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