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Pope Francis criticized the “ideological exploitation” of the Catholic Church in an interview with the newspaper of his native country.
Pope francesco he released the comment Friday to Argentina’s national news agency, Télam, in an interview. The questions and discussion took place in Pope Francis’ mother tongue, Spanish.
Questioning the Pope’s decade of service in the papacy and his legacy, the interviewer touched upon Pope Francis’ roots in Argentina and asked how his Latin American background influenced his reign.
The pontiff spoke very highly of the history of the Church in South America and its extraordinary closeness to the people.
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“The Latin American Church has a long history of closeness to the people. If we go beyond the Episcopal Conferences – the first in Medellín, then Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida – they have always been in dialogue with the people of God ”. Pope Francis said. “And that really helped. It’s a popular church in the truest sense of the word. It’s a church of God’s people.”
However, the pope made a distinction between the South American church’s closeness to the people and the church’s political corruption.
“That was changed when people couldn’t express themselves, and it ended up becoming a church of gang leaders, with pastoral agents in charge,” the pope clarified. “People began to express themselves more and more about their religion and ended up becoming protagonists of their own history”.
Pope Francis specifically mentioned Marxist-inspired “liberation theology”, a socio-religious movement in Latin America that merges communist belief systems with the Catholic Church.
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“There have been attempts at ideologization, such as liberation theology’s use of Marxist concepts in the analysis of reality. That was an ideological exploitation, a path of liberation, let’s say, of the Latin American popular church. But there is a difference between the people and populism, “the pope said.
The pope has walked a long and difficult line with Catholic politics and theology, criticizing both rampant capitalism and communism as antithetical to the Christian message.
His sympathies for leftist populist groups in South America have led to accusations of Marxist beliefs.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, an anti-Communist activist from Hong Kong arrested by the Chinese Communist Party, is a devoted supporter of Pope Francis but has openly wondered if the pope sees Communists as “the good guys.”
“Pope Francis comes from South America, where Communists are the good guys defending the poor from the oppression of military regimes in collusion with the rich, so he might feel sympathy for them,” Zen speculated. “He has no direct experience of the Communists in power, oppressors of the peoples.”
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The pope has denounced liberation theology for decades, criticizing the fusion of church theology with politics.
“After the collapse of ‘real socialism’, these currents of thought have been plunged into confusion,” wrote the pope at the opening of a 2005 book on the Latin American Church. “Incapable of radical reformulations or new creativity, they survived thanks to inertia, even if there are still those who, anachronistically, would like to propose it again”.