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B16 and Liberation Theology

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It’s popular in America to view the rise of Cardinal Ratzinger and his ascension to St Peter’s throne as Benedict XVI as the ultimate act of triumph of a traditional, European-conservative Catholicism over the “radical priest syndrome” of Liberation Theology. But Der Spiegel takes a look at Liberation Theology in the context of the pope’s visit to Brazil, and sees the movement as strong as ever:

Today some 80,000 “base communities,” as the grass-roots building blocks of liberation theology are called, operate in Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation, and nearly one million “Bible circles” meet regularly to read and discuss scripture from the viewpoint of the theology of liberation.

During Benedict’s five-day visit here, he is scheduled to meet with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, canonize a saint, preach to the faithful and visit a drug treatment center before addressing the opening session of a conference of Latin American bishops that will discuss the future of the church in the region where liberation theology originated, prospered and drew so much of his censure. Some liberation theology supporters will be present, others will be at a parallel meeting, and all have been cautioned not to be too aggressive in pressing their views . . .

“The force of Latin America’s harsh social reality is stronger than Rome’s ideology, so the theology of liberation still has a great deal of vitality,” Mr. Boff, a former Franciscan friar who left the clergy in 1992, argued in a recent interview. “It is true it doesn’t have the visibility it once had and is not as controversial as it once was, but it is very much alive and well.”

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