Cardinal Baltazar Porras from the Pontifical Commission for Latin America presided at a Mass for immigrants at St. Ignatius Church, which closed the week-long Ibero-American Conference of Theology at Boston College. (Frank Curran)
Through its ministry and evangelization, the Catholic Church must focus on economically excluded communities, eliminating inequality, and uplifting disadvantaged people throughout the world, according to Hispanic theologians from Latin America, Spain, and the U.S. who attended a historic conference at Boston College.
That message – in many ways distinctive of theological movements of Latin America – will be delivered to Pope Francis in a sign of support for reforms within the Church and throughout societies of the world, according to one of the organizers of the Ibero-American Conference of Theology, which concluded Friday, February 10.
The event is one of many examples of the School of Theology and Ministry's presence among the world's leading centers of theological discourse.
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The weeklong conference examined the role of liberation theology as Pope Francis and the Catholic Church respond to issues of globalization, migration and economic exclusion, said Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Visiting Associate Professor Rafael Luciani, a co-organizer of the conference with his Boston College colleague, visiting associate professor Felix Palazzi.
Luciani said the theologians – among them professors, priests and Vatican officials – will return to their communities in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain with a renewed commitment to the Pope’s reforms and a deeper understanding of the pontiff’s own thinking, rooted in the “theology of the people” and liberation theology.
Two papal representatives, Cardinal Baltazar Porras, of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and Bishop Raúl Biord Castillo, SDB, together will present the group’s work to Pope Francis. Research and analysis from the theologians is scheduled to publish in a book later this year, said Luciani, a lay theologian from Venezuela.
The work of the conference is of particular importance in efforts to better serve Hispanic Catholics, who make up the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. church. Worldwide, more than 65 percent of Catholics live in the “Global South,” which includes Latin America and Africa.
Attending the conference were some of the leading figures in the birth of liberation theology, including Juan Carlos Scannone, S.J., a founding philosopher of the “theology of the people” and the pope’s seminary instructor, and Notre Dame University Professor Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, regarded as the founder of liberation theology.
Fr. Scannone reminded participants that the pope has called the poor “protagonists” and “makers of history.” He told the conference: “The poor should not just feel at home in church. They should feel like the heart of the Church.”
Society of Jesus Superior General Arturo Sosa, S.J., delivered a video message of support to the conference, extolling the Pope’s call for Catholics to work hard to find God’s presence in everyday life.
“That discernment is the path suggested by Pope Francis to renew the Church’s mission of evangelization around the world and is the only true way to actually transform and renew the structures of the Church itself,” Fr. Sosa said. “The Society of Jesus wants to be included in that path, that process of renewal that we feel as a call of the Lord to the whole Catholic Church.”
—Ed Hayward, University Communications