Pope Francis sent a short letter to liberation theologian Leonardo Boff to thank him for his support and to offer him his best wishes on his 80th birthday, December 14, 2018. In this message, published by Leonardo Boff on his blog on December 17, the Pope greets Boff as a brother.
He reminds him of their first encounter, in San Miguel, during a meeting of the Latin American Conference for Religious (CLAR). He also mentions to him that he has continued to read some of his books. Finally he notes that he prays for Leonardo Boff and for his wife.
These good wishes and thanks from the Pope came in response to a letter previously sent by Leonardo Boff to Francis who, he explains,
suffers from great opposition on the part of some persons in the Roman Curia and, curiously, also from conservative members of the Trump government, as well as from conservative and even reactionary groups in the American Catholic Church.
And so, Leonardo Boff continues, he wrote to the Pope a letter of support as he has done on other occasions.
Not a New "Brotherhood"
Indeed, the reader will remember that he had already sent a Letter of Support to Pope Francis, published on November 8, 2015, on his blog. Here are a few excerpts that reveals the hopes that the liberation theologian places in the Pope:
In Latin America, in Brazil, in the Caribbean Islands and in other parts of the world, many of us are worried about the closed-minded attitudes and the attacks launched against you by conservative groups, which are in the minority but powerful, coming from inside and outside the Church. In perplexity we have witnessed a phenomenon that had not occurred during the last several centuries: the rebellion of conservative cardinals against your way of conducting the Synod and above all the Universal Church....
We regret that these conservative groups are only capable of saying No. No to the Eucharist for divorced-and-remarried persons; no to recognizing homosexuals; no to any openness to the world that involves substantial changes....
The attempts aiming to delegitimize your style of being Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Universal Church will continue to be in vain. For nothing can resist kindness and tenderness, which you marvelously embody.... In this context, as Christians open to the challenges of today’s world, faced with a new global era and to threats that weigh on ecosystem and the earth (as you courageously mentioned them in your Encyclical Laudato sì in order to ‘safeguard our common home’), we want to close ranks at your sides and show you our complete support. We support your ministry, your pastoral, open vision of the Church and this charismatic way of making us feel spiritually at home once again in the Church. And many persons from other Churches, religions and from the secular world also encourage and admire your way of speaking and acting....
We want to be at your side and support you in your evangelical and liberating vision of the Church. We want to give you courage and interior strength so that you can carry out, in words and in deeds, the tradition of Jesus, made up of love, mercy, compassion, intimacy with God and solidarity with suffering humanity.
In an interview granted to BBC Mundo, the Spanish-language service of the British news broadcaster, reported by Jeanne Smits on her blog on September 3, 2015, Leonardo Boff declared:
I think that the Pope will not debate about doctrines. He always says that reality is above doctrines. If reality says that there are many divorces, the concept of family is changing more and more, and what matters, for him, is that there be love. Where there is love, whether in the first or in the second marriage, there is something of God. (sic)
Concerning liberation theology, condemned by the Vatican in 1984, two statements sum it up perfectly. The first, by Leonardo Boff: “What we propose is Marxism, historical materialism, in theology.” The second, by the Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez, founding father of the same ideology: “What we mean by liberation theology is participation in the revolutionary political process.”
Why this is important
Gutierrez explains the significance of this participation:
Only by getting beyond a society divided into classes, ... and by eliminating the private ownership of the wealth created by human work will we be in a position to lay the foundations of a more just society. This is why efforts to plan a more just society in Latin America are increasingly oriented toward socialism.
The grandson of Italian immigrants, like Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff was born on December 14, 1938, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. He entered the Franciscan Friars Minor in 1959 and earned his doctorate in philosophy and theology at the University of Munich in 1970.
From 1970 to 1992 he was professor of systematic and ecumenical theology in the Franciscan Theological Institute in Petrópolis. In 1984 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned his theses. He was sanctioned because of the organic connection between liberation theology and Marxism. Rome demanded “silence and obedience” of him, but he was not suspended. In 1979, John Paul II had declared that a “concept of Christ as a political, revolutionary man, as the subversive from Nazareth, did not correspond to the Church’s catechesis.”
In 1992, given his disobedience to his Franciscan superiors and his repeated attacks against Pope John Paul II, he left the priesthood, before being definitively forbidden to exercise the priesthood. He lives in a marital relationship with Marcia Maria Monteiro de Miranda.