Caritas Internationalis began its general assembly in Rome this week. The keynote speaker for the weeklong meeting is Father Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian priest commonly considered the “father” of Liberation Theology. At a press conference before the start of the meeting Fr. Gutierrez spoke about why the Church and Caritas devote attention and resources to helping the poor. Of course Fr. Gutierrez was also asked several questions about Liberation Theology and his relationship with the Vatican. Here is a summary of some of his comments.
Speaking in Spanish and Italian Fr. Gutierrez answered several questions about theology, Liberation Theology, his relationship with the Vatican, and the work of helping the poor.
When asked about the role of theology, Fr. Gutierrez answered:
“There can be no charity without justice. Theological reflection must be tied to people’s daily life. Theology is not a religious mysticism but a reflection on the practice of charity, compassion, mercy and justice. Seen this way theology can help give a certain vision to those who are engaged in the practical work of justice and charity. It’s a modest role.”
He followed that by adding, “For the Christian the important thing is to follow Jesus and put into practice what he teaches, what we call spirituality. Theology is a secondary thing, less important than living the faith - but it is necessary because it helps make the practice of faith more effective. It helps, modestly.”
He emphasized his point saying, “Theology is not secondary in a derogatory sense, but I mean to say if I had not spoken of theology in the last 40 years I would still be Christian.”
Inevitably Fr. Gutierrez was asked about the Vatican’s position towards liberation theology. His answer:
“Liberation Theology was never condemned, never. If anyone said that, it was not true. There was dialogue with the congregation [for the doctrine of the faith] about Liberation Theology, a critical dialogue, that is true.”
Asked whether his appearance at the Vatican was a rehabilitation of Liberation Theology Fr. Gutierrez answered just as directly:
“Rehabilitation is not the exact word to use. At this moment the climate around this theology is different, that is true. But to say it is a rehabilitation means that as some point there was a ‘dis’ habilitation and this was never the case. It is just another time. What is important is a rehabilitation of the Gospel.”
On Thursday Caritas members elected Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as the new president of the international confederation.
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