Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Associate Professor of the Practice Rafael Luciani met privately with Pope Francis.

During a recent private audience with Pope Francis, School of Theology and Ministry Associate Professor of the Practice Rafael Luciani had the opportunity to present the pontiff with a couple of publications and talk about ways Boston College can help promote the pope’s message throughout the Church.

Luciani gave the pope the new English translation of his book, Pope Francis and the Theology of the People, which focuses on the pastoral and theological vision of Pope Francis, particularly his embrace of a type of liberation theology called the theology of the people. He told the pope that the book was used in a course he taught at the STM. According to Luciani, Boston College was the first college or university in the U.S. to offer a course on the Latin American roots and the theology of Pope Francis.

The pope asked Luciani if STM could offer an online course on Amoris laetitia, his 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family. The pontiff was aware of the popularity of a previous STM Spanish Language Continuing Education online course on the social and political aspects of his papacy that attracted thousands of participants.

Luciani said the pope told him that “all your academic work has to have an impact on people’s lives.”

In response, Luciani reports, STM’s Formación Continua will present a six-week course on Amoris laetitia this spring in conjunction with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America at the Vatican, Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Alberto Hurtado University in Chile, Pontifical University Comillas in Spain, and other Jesuit universities. The course will be taught by world renowned experts on Amoris laetitia and coordinated by STM Associate Professor of the Practice Felix Palazzi.

Luciani then discussd STM’s Latino/Latin American Initiatives, a multi-tiered project that seeks to make connections among the Latin America Church and Latin America theology, U.S. Latino/as, and Spain. The initiative — organized by Luciani, Palazzi and STM Associate Professor Hosffman Ospino — will conduct outreach globally, nationally, and locally.

In April, STM and Javeriana University, a prestigious Jesuit university in Colombia, will co-sponsor a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of Medellín, the historic 1968 Latin American Bishops  Conference.

“This is very important because it marked the birth of the Latin American Church and Latin American theology,” said Luciani, who, along with Palazzi, Ospino and other BC scholars, will travel to Bogotá for the event. “It is especially important because it’s the pope’s roots. It is also celebrating the way he has led the Church and is reforming the Church.”

Luciani and the pope also discussed the possibility of BC organizing an international conference on Laudato si, hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in the Vatican.

Luciani said he found his conversation with Pope Francis very affirming.

“He has a clear vision of what the Church should be and how it should be responding to problems in the world today,” said Luciani. “He has wisdom, a lot of energy, and optimism.”

During the private audience, Luciani also presented the pope a copy of the book of texts from the 2017 Ibero-American Conference of Theology organized by Boston College last February. Pope Francis was kept apprised of the conference by his representative and advisors who attended, but had not seen the final conference book, published just before Luciani departed for Rome. Luciani also gave a copy of the text, which was edited by Palazzi, to the Vatican Library.

Another gift Luciani offered to the pope was the most recent issue of the journal, Medellín, for which 30 scholars, including Luciani, contributed essays on the teaching of Pope Francis. Medellín is the official journal of CELAM, the Latin American Bishops Council that represents all the local bishops’ conferences in Latin America.

“[The journal] was an important effort to help promote the pope’s teachings,” said Luciani, a senior adviser to CELAM and a member of its Theological and Pastoral Commission.

While most of Luciani’s private audience with Pope Francis centered on work, there was also a very meaningful and pastoral moment. Pope Francis called Luciani’s parents in Venezuela and left a voice message for them offering his greetings and a blessing. Luciani’s father, a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great, had a stroke five years ago and was very ill at the time; he died last month.  

“It was very kind of him,” recalled Luciani. “My mother was so happy to hear his voice. It gave a little bit of hope in such difficult times.”

--Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications