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POPE/ Cardinal Bergoglio and the theology of liberation

LORENZO ALBACETE talks about the way the media covered the Conclave and the Pontiff election, focusing on how the Magisterium of the Church intends the preferential option for the poor

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Charlie Rose is a highly respected television commentator whose program of interviews and discussion has an audience of scholars, intellectuals, admired artists and other professionals who generally disdain such types of panels, shows which everyday seem to be taken over by vulgar celebrities. That is why in the year 2000 I was happy to appear on his show together with artist, writer, TV producer, and director Helen Whitney, in order to promote her show on the influence of Pope John Paul II on the cultural leaders of our times. An award winning show in which Helen had given me a part.

By the end of the show, Charlie and I had become good friends, and every time anything happens in Rome I get invited to the show. And so it was this time too.

Charlie himself had gone to Rome to anchor the CBS TV morning news show from the Vatican and he had seen everyone that could be seen and interviewed, whomever could be interviewed as an expert. There certainly was nothing I could add to what he knew about the conclave. There were two other guests on the show, both well known journalists for The New York Times. One of them was still in Rome and more or less devoted his remarks to what had happened the week before. The journalist at the studio with me has a reputation of being very critical of the Catholic Church.

As it was, I thought that the discussion was basically fair and I heard nothing to which I felt it necessary to respond. Except for two points, which I had noticed before again and again.

First of all the Person of Jesus Christ had really nothing to do with what was happening in the Church and what should happen in the future if the significance of what had happened was adequately grasped. In order to make the point, I referred to the issue of the theology of liberation which had agitated so much the Church in Latin America, and still does. Pope Francis, I said, was not only non-European, he was a Latin American Jesuit. For him, the term poor means much more than someone lacking the necessary money to satisfy his or her basic needs. In liberation theology, the poor are not the sum total of those with such basic needs; rather they are a social category referring to an economic class that survives and flourishes as long as the poor remain imprisoned by social structures designed and sustained by the ruling economic system. Liberation Theology seeks to understand how the two kinds of poverty are related according to the gospel.