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Leonardo Boff: 1938—: Theologian

"christ As Liberator"

Boff's troubles with the Catholic Church hierarchy began with the contents of his doctoral dissertation, written and published in German in 1972, and translated as The Church as Sacrament from the Point of View of Secular Experience. In his thesis Boff declares that the church should focus on a vision of the absolute fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. This argument was founded on utopian principles that called on all Christians to rid themselves of any ideologies, whether secular or ecclesiastic, that would delay the coming of the Kingdom. Following the completion of his studies, Boff returned to Petrópolis in 1970 to take a teaching position at the Institute Teologico Franciscano, where he would remain on the faculty until 1991. He also became editor of Brazil's leading theological publication, Revista Ecclesiastica Brasileira, as well as of the Portuguese-language edition of Concilium.

In the 1970s Boff published another work, translated from the Portuguese as Jesus Christ Liberator, which sets out his position that Latin America, as a third-world region, needs its own indigenous theology, separate from the teachings generated by Europeans. In his first major theological work since his dissertation, Boff outlines five criteria for a meaningful interpretation of the Gospel message for the Latin American church. First, the church's focus should be on human need rather than church dogma; second, the church should not accept the suffering of the poor as inevitable; third, the church should be open to dialogue with the world outside its own walls; fourth, the church should actively work to liberate the poor and oppressed; and fifth, the church's foundation must center on Christ's call to correct action rather than correct beliefs (orthodoxy). In the book Jesus is portrayed as socially radical, in effect a revolutionary, in his commitment to the poor and oppressed.

A prolific writer, Boff published scores of works, mostly published in Portuguese by a Franciscan press. Many titles were translated into English, including Liberating Grace, Way of the Cross—Way of Justice, The Lord's Prayer: The Prayer of Integral Liberation, and Salvation and Liberation. Throughout his writings, Boff continued to stress that Christ was on the side of the poor and oppressed. He was attentive to the significant role of the Catholic Church as a community, but also delineated its sins and abuses as an institution. Years later Boff told the New Internationalist, "You see, I believe the Pope wants a Church of the rich for the poor, but not with the poor."

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