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Liberation theology rehabilitation continues at Vatican

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s rehabilitation of liberation theology is continuing under Pope Francis with the movement’s founder appearing at an official Vatican event next week talking about “a poor church for the poor.”

Peruvian theologian the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez will be one of the main speakers at a gathering of the Vatican’s charity arm, Caritas Internationalis, and will appear at an official Vatican press conference launching the assembly Tuesday.

Liberation theology is the Latin American-inspired Catholic theology advocating for the poor. It gained followers in the 1960s and 1970s among Latin Americans who were raised Catholic, taught by Marxist-influenced teachers and outraged by the inequality and bloody repression around them.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — later Pope Benedict XVI — spent much of his quarter-century tenure at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith battling liberation theology and disciplining some of its most famous defenders, arguing that they had misinterpreted Jesus’ preference for the poor into a Marxist call for armed rebellion.

Gutierrez himself was never sanctioned by the Vatican.

Ever since Francis succeeded Benedict as pope, liberation theology has come out of the shadows given Francis’ own wish for “a poor church that is for the poor.” Last year, Gutierrez was a surprise guest at a book launch for his friend, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, currently the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Gutierrez and his backers insist true liberation theology was always perfectly in line with the church’s social teaching about the poor.

The Caritas assembly will also touch on another issue dear to Francis’ heart: climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable. Cardinal Peter Turkson, who wrote an early draft of Francis’ eagerly awaited environment encyclical, is to give a presentation.

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