NEWS:  July 31, 2013
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
SEEING FRANCIS THROUGH BOFF’S LENSES   -  Some days before boarding a plane to Brazil on July 22, 2013, Pope Francis sent a message to Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian leader of Liberation Theology, silenced in 1985 by then Card. Ratzinger. The message was that he wanted a copy of Boff’s newly released book titled Francis of Assisi & Francis of Rome.

The request sent Boff to the Archbishop of Rio – Msgr. Orani Tempesta, who would host the Pope during his stay in that city – with a copy of the book to deliver to Francis. The request also stirred up interest in Boff’s book in the media, bringing the ex-Franciscan to the center of attention.

a new springtime in the Church?

Francis of Assisi & Francis of Rome - A new springtime in the Church?

Since Pope Bergoglio is a man of gestures, let me analyze what sending this message to Boff represents. If Bergoglio were only interested in knowing the content of Boff’s book, nothing would be easier for him as Pope than to ask someone in the Rio Archdiocese to read it and send him a comprehensive review of it. If he wanted to read it himself, he could also ask someone to purchase a copy to give him.

He chose none of these normal avenues, however. He wanted Boff to know his desire. So, Francis sent Boff a message through a common friend. It was his way of giving Boff the green light to tell the media that the Pope wanted to read his book. This provided Boff an opportunity to put himself in the spotlight and also interpret the papal message the way he wanted. In other words, Bergoglio deliberately put Boff and his Liberation Theology on center stage.

With this papal interest in that work, newspaper interviews followed, with questions directed to Boff about both his good relations with Francis and the content of his book.

Many news reports have been written recently on these topics. I am basing these comments on two interviews and one article published in three newspapers: an interview by Juan Arias in El Pais, Madrid; another by Helena Celestino in O Globo, Rio, and an article by Boff himself in O Estado de São Paulo (OESP), also in Brazil. The three articles are all dated July 23, 2013.

The hope of reconciliation

In one interview, Boff spoke about a common friend he and Francis have, the messenger used by the Pope to request his book. That same lady – who speaks with Pope Bergoglio every week – told Boff she had asked Francis whether he intended to meet with the theologian. His answer was: ‘I want to, but only after I complete the reform of the Curia.’” (El Pais)

Liberation Theology Boff cheers Francis

A smiling Boff cheers
Francis' Liberation Theology ideas

The existence of this common lady friend suggests that, through this source, Boff knows other plans he attributes to Francis. When the theologian was asked if he expects Francis to make an act of reconciliation with him and other condemned theologians, he answered: “I believe that as long as the retired Pope lives, he will neither reconcile nor redeem these theologians. But, when he is by himself, he will rescue the 500 theologians whose heads were severed. I believe this Pope is capable of dismantling this machine of punishment and control, and leave it to the local churches.” (O Globo)

His resentment against his punishment and his hope of receiving a pardon also emerge in this praise: “Pope Francis has clearly said: ‘Those who approach the Church must find the doors open and not find people who want to control the faith.’ ‘It is better to have a wounded Church that goes out onto the street than a sick asphyxiated Church that stays inside the temple.’ Therefore, we have more reason to trust than to fear.” (OESP)

Bergoglio is a partisan of Liberation Theology

Boff points out what his Liberation Theology has in common with Bergoglio’s theology: “Remember that the theologian Carlos Scanone, who launched this theology in Argentina, was the professor of Bergoglio … when he taught theology at a college in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.” (El Pais)

He explains that Scanone constructed a liberation theology that “was linked to the ‘popular theology,’ somewhat different from the liberation theology inspired by the Marxist idea of rescuing the poor and the excluded by means of changes in the political structures. According to Scanone’s theology, the people themselves must carry out their own liberation from the structures of power that enslave them.”

Boff concludes: “In this sense, we can say that Francis is a liberation theologian who follows the lines of Scanone, which was the theology that supported some of the actions of Peronism.” (ibid.)

Confirming these words, he observes: “Francis speaks based on human suffering, hunger in the world, the immigrants from Africa who arrived at the Island of Lampedusa. He denounces the fetishism of money and the global financial system that tortures whole countries. Taking this position, he rescues the principal insights of Liberation Theology, without naming it. He says: ‘Today, if a Christian is not a revolutionary, he is not a Christian; he must be a revolutionary of grace.’ And he continues: ‘The Christian has the obligation to get involved in politics, since politics is one of the highest forms of charity.’” (OESP)

To be honest with my readers, I agree with Leonardo Boff. I believe he is right: Without saying it outright, Bergoglio is carrying out the agenda of Liberation Theology.

Full support for Francis’ Miserablist Revolution

Boff is quite pleased with all the steps Bergoglio is taking to destroy the Papacy. Regarding what the refusal of titles implies, Boff writes:

Francis dines at Santa Martha Inn

Above, Francis eating at St. Martha's refectory with other guests, below, seating at the back of its chapel

Francis at Santa Martha Inn
From Pope to Bishop of Rome: All the previous Pontiffs understood themselves as Popes of the universal Church, holders of the supreme power over all the other churches and the faithful. Francis prefers to call himself Bishop of Rome, returning to the earliest memory of the Church. He wants to preside based on charity and not on Canon Law, by being only the first among equals.

“He refuses the title of His Holiness, saying that ‘we are all brothers and sisters.’ He divested himself of all the titles of power and honor. The new Annuario Pontifício, which was just released and should list the Pope’s name with all his titles on the first page, now appears only with this: Francis, Bishop of Rome.”

Regarding the “poor options” of Francis opposed to the traditional concept of the Papacy, Boff observes:

From the palace to the inn: The name Francis is more than a name; it signals another concept of Church according to St. Francis of Assisi: ‘A poor Church for the poor,’ as he says, humble, simple, with ‘the smell of sheep’ and not altar flowers. So he left the papal palace and went to live in an inn, in a single room, eating with the other guests.” (OESP)

This is how Leonardo Boff views Francis. A view that somehow received Francis’ endorsement, as I explained in the beginning of this article.

On the very day Boff published these revealing observations, the day the Pope arrived in Brazil, news reports began to flood the world about Francis’ visit to that country for the World Youth Day. It seems that this Pope cannot pass a single day without making an astonishing new statement or gesture. The papal trip to Brazil was the perfect scenario, offering him countless opportunities to play out his theatrical skills and steal the show in the revolutionary media. Consequently, the deluge of news reports praising Francis was incessant, and what Boff said was lost amid the frenetic turmoil.

Now, that Francis is back in Rome - his doctor may recommend him some days of rest before he explodes - I hope that these comments on Boff’s appraisal of Francis may help my readers better realize who Jorge Bergoglio really is.