Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gutierrez: "Francis reminds me of Pope John XXIII"

Last week, Pope Francis met with Peruvian liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez in a private audience. The meeting was viewed by many as a welcome sign that liberation theology will now be well-received by the Catholic Church which had previously persecuted its advocates.

Prior to the meeting, Gutierrez, who was also in town for the presentation of the new Italian edition of the book he co-authored with the current head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller (
Dalla parte dei poveri. Teologia della liberazione, teologia della Chiesa -- ed. San Paolo-Emi). was interviewed by Angelo Sarto of La Stampa's Vatican Insider on September 7th. We will now bring you this interview in English (translation by Rebel Girl):

"Talking about the importance of the poor, solidarity with the poor, ... that comes from the Gospel. Liberation theology just recalled all that, it didn't create it -- it's there in the Gospel! And the Pope is very gospel-centered." This was stated by one of the founders of liberation theology, Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Dominican, who is expected tomorrow at the Mantua Literature Festival with his "old friend", Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, now Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Father Gutiérrez, the warm reception shown by L'Osservatore Romano to your book Dalla parte dei poveri (Edizioni Messaggero – Editrice Missionaria Italiana), written jointly with Mgr. Müller, marks a turning point in relations between the Vatican and liberation theology. What do you think?

That book was published in German and Spanish nine years ago. I'm very pleased with this positive reception. It shows that liberation theology is a contribution among other theologies. Monsignor Müller talks about this very clearly. I'm very glad for this approval from my old friend Müller."

What's the relationship, as far as you know, between Bergoglio and liberation theology? Some say he's condemned it in the past ...

To my knowledge he has never condemned it, that's what some of my friends who are very close to him have told me. Look, I'm not so interested in liberation theology but in the Gospel. Liberation theology is a theology, designed to recall something important in the Gospel -- the presence of the poor in the world, the Church's preferential option for the poor. Has there been contact between Bergoglio and liberation theology? Perhaps -- why not? I prefer to view things that way and not place the Pope in a theology but only in the Gospel."

Some observers claim Bergoglio is carrying out some of the proposals of liberation theology in terms of his commitment as pastor...

I think maybe he's carrying out the Gospel, not exactly a theology, but at most a theology close to liberation theology. Talking about the importance of the poor, commitment, solidarity with the poor...that comes from the Gospel. Liberation theology just recalled all that, it didn't create it -- it's there in the Gospel! And the Pope is very gospel-centered, his way of acting shows it.

Leonardo Boff has argued that Pope Francis will in the future give the sign to rehabilitate liberation theology, which has often been criticized by the Vatican. Do you think this will happen?

(Laughs). Making predictions is always difficult. But it seems that this could happen, although I can't say how because I can't answer as to what the Pope will do. But this time is so rich, interesting and evangelically new! I hope this climate continues. Not so much for liberation theology, but to get to the root of the gospel. I don't know Bergoglio directly, but only through friends who are very close to him. I heard of him a long time ago as a Jesuit in Argentina, as a bishop, archbishop and cardinal in Buenos Aires. I've been very pleased during the recent months after his election as Pope. He has helped the faith a lot with a very gospel style in church life.

Which urgent need should Francis face most in the Church today?

It isn't easy to say. When you see the church as the Pope does, there's a different view. But what he's done up to now is talk about the gospel on the periphery. It's a very interesting metaphor. That's the Church's mission: proclaiming the kingdom of God to all, with a special emphasis on the world's periphery. That's what I find so gospel-centered in Francis! The two things he has begun to do -- namely the reform of the curia and the economic reform of the IOR -- are the right ones. But above all, what's important is a renewed presence of faith in today's world. He has an analysis of reality that seems very interesting. He's very original and creative in his gestures. I can't say he ought to do this or that! It's not my job. But I'm very pleased to see this presence and "fresh" air in the church that Francis has brought.

Many people are coming back to the Church thanks to Francis. Why?

He's touched a note that hadn't been touched in a while -- evangelization and the proclamation of the kingdom is for everyone. This means going towards the important points, such as justice. Francis is emphasizing this new thing a lot, with truly extraordinary charisma. He reminds me of Pope John XXIII."

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