Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dictionary tells the history of liberation theology

by Cristina Fontenele (English translation by Rebel Girl)
December 15, 2015

Written almost entirely by Latin American theologians, the Diccionario Histórico de la Teología de la Liberación ("Historical Dictionary of Liberation Theology") which the Belgian publisher Lessius, with the support of emeritus professors, will launch in the Francophone world (Europe and Canada), is being finalized. It is anticipated that by September of next year, the work will be produced in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English versions. The work, which has been three years in the making, aims to provide an overview of the evolution of liberation theology from its emergence at the time of Vatican II [1965] to today.

Luis Martínez (photo), a Chilean theologian living in Brussels (Belgium) and one of the coordinators of the project, explains that the dictionary is organized into three big blocks. The first part develops the 10 main themes of liberation theology, for example, the theme "Liberation" which was written by Leonardo Boff, "Christology" by theologian Jorge Costadoat of Santiago [Chile], and "Base Communities" by Socorro Martínez of Amerindia. "We didn't ask anything of Gutiérrez [Gustavo Gutiérrez, considered to be the father of liberation theology], we left him in peace, but he is very present throughout the dictionary. There's a bibliographical note -- the biggest one -- about him, as well as Boff's."

Martinez, for his part, wrote a note on Chilean priest Ronaldo Muñoz. "He was my teacher, we studied theology and together we founded the Comunidad Teológica del Sur ["Theological Community of the South"]. In general, if anyone wrote about someone, it was because they knew them."

In the second block, the book does a geographic development of liberation theology by country, and in the third part around 150 biographies are presented about bishops, theologians, martyrs and lay persons who supported liberation theology and sustained it through their practice. This last block is preceded by a historical introduction about the obstacles, resistance to, and victories gained by liberation theology. Martínez says that almost all the theologians present at Amerindia's 2nd Theology Congress held in Belo Horizonte in October of this year, wrote an article for the dictionary. "Ninety percent of the work was written by Latin American theologians who are speaking about their own colleagues and reality. It's like listening to a family talking about itself."

With the arrival of Pope Francis, Martínez emphasizes that liberation theology is "back on the table", when it had been considered by many to be a "dead" theology. The main expectation with the launch of the Diccionario is, according to the theologian, presenting to the world a solid journey through Latin America starting from the great reception of the Council, especially to the European Church, which is facing many difficulties and is "almost dying," "on its death bed."

According to Martínez, Europe is very ethnocentric and thinks it has nothing to learn from the rest of the world. "So, we didn't want to get into a debate of ideas, but show the facts, which are irrefutable," says the theologian about the discussions related to the Diccionario and the history of liberation theology. For him, the idea of the project was to provide a dialogue between Latin American theologians, who tell their own story to brothers and sisters from other places.

In this context, Pope Francis, who, according to Martínez, isn't a liberation theologian but also fruit of the Latin American tradition, could give a new impetus to the Church, which is now being revitalized, with the "will to go out" and tell the "powerful" that the road they have taken doesn't work, being that it is necessary to save the Earth, save the poor.

The theologian emphasizes that Latin America is alive and full of hope, with projects and people who struggle despite undeniable difficulties at the social level as well as in the Church. In contrast, Africa is engulfed in wars and desolation, and Europe has locked itself in its wealth as in a fortress. Thus, Martínez perceives that Latin America could be an invitation to believe that, in fact, another world is possible.

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