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Leonardo Boff: 1938—: Theologian

Post-vatican Ii Theology

Boff was born on December 14, 1938, in Concórdia, Brazil, a small town in the country's southern region. His father, Mansueto, was a teacher, and his mother, Regina, came from a farm family. Boff studied in 1952 at Seminary of St. Luis de Tolosa in Rio Negro, and from 1953 to 1958 he worked on his college studies at the Seminary of St. Antonio in Agudos. In 1959 he became a novice at the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi.

In the 1960s Boff studied philosophy and theology at the Faculdade de Filosofia (Seminário Maior) da Província da Imaculada Conceição in Curitiba and at the Jesuit Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Petrópolis. He was ordained as a Franciscan priest on December 15, 1964, and subsequently pursued his doctoral studies in systematic theology and philosophy at the University of Münich, Germany, where he came under the influence of renowned Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. During his advanced studies, Boff spent time in the postgraduate departments of the University of Würzburg and Oxford University, concentrating on anthropology and linguistics. He was awarded his doctorate in 1970.

The Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1963-65, sparked a widespread lay movement which gave new emphasis to ecumenical ideas and increased lay participation. In the wake of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Populum progression, which condemned the effects of capitalism on third-world countries. In Latin America Catholic bishops issued a resolution that encouraged the formation of Christian Base Communities, where laity could gather to foster their spiritual development as well as to pursue social and economic justice.

At a Glance . . .

Born on December 14, 1938, in Concórdia, Brazil; son of Mansueto (a teacher) and Regina Boff. Education: Seminary of St. Luis de Tolosa, 1952; Seminary of St. Antonio, 1953-58; Faculdade de Filosofia (Seminário Maior) da Província da Imaculada Conceição, 1960-61; Jesuit Institute of Philosophy and Theology, 1962-65; University of Münich, Germany, Ph.D., 1970; University of Würzburg and Oxford University, 1968-69. Religion: Roman Catholic.

Career: Institute Teologico Franciscano (Jesuit Institute of Philosophy and Theology), Petrópolis, Brazil, professor, 1970-92; State University of Rio de Janeiro, professor of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology 1993-01, professor emeritus, 2001–.

Awards: Religious Book of the Year, France, for Jésus Christ Libérateur, 1974; Religious Book of the Year, The Philippines, for O Pai-nosso: A Oracao de liberacao integral, 1984; Herbert Haag Prize for Freedom of the Church, Switzerland, 1985; Catholic Book Award for Passion of Christ, Passion of the World, 1987; Alfonso Comin International Prize for community and human rights work, Barcelona, 1987; honorary doctorate, University of Turin, 1991; National Prize for Human Rights, Rio de Janeiro, 1992; honorary doctorate, University of Lund, 1992; Thomas Morus Medaille, for firmness of conscience, 1992; Right Livelihood Award: The Prize for Outstanding Vision and Work on Behalf of Our Planet and Its People, 2001.

Another factor that influenced Boff's point of view was the political situation in Brazil, which had undergone a military coup in 1964 after more than 20 years of a harsh and corrupt dictatorship. Even though a new government had improved Brazil's world economic standing, the wealth was still concentrated in a few hands, and the majority of Brazilians remained poor and underprivileged. As the church began to speak out for the needs of the people, the government responded by jailing, torturing, and sometimes murdering the more radical members of the community. In all, the post-Vatican position of the Catholic Church and the political environment in Brazil had set the stage for Boff to call for the Church, as the representative of Christ, to work for the freedom of the oppressed.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalLeonardo Boff: 1938—: Theologian Biography - Post-vatican Ii Theology, "christ As Liberator", Silenced By Church, Abandoned Priesthood