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Pope Tells Brazilian Bishops to Uphold Correct Liberation Theology

April 12, 1986

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ In a letter released Saturday, Pope John Paul II told Brazil’s bishops that he condones liberation theology, but called on them to ensure that its development adheres to church principles.

Liberation theology ″is not only opportune but useful and necessary,″ the pope said in his letter to the General Assembly of Brazilian Bishops.

But he urged the bishops to be constantly ″vigilant to ensure that the correct and necessary theology of liberation develops in Brazil and Latin America.″

The letter, made available by the Vatican press office, was written in Portuguese and dated April 9.

Brazil’s bishops currently are examining a new Vatican document on liberation theology released earlier this month.

The pope, referring to the 59-page document, said the Brazilian church has an ″important and delicate role to play″ in a country that is both highly developed and has ″immense zones of poverty.″

That document presented the first comprehensive guidelines on how Roman Catholic bishops, priests and laity should pursue the church’s mission of seeking freedom in the modern world.

It was drafted to complement a 1984 document on liberation theology, a movement born in Latin America that has sometimes used Marxist analysis to support socialist activism by priests and nuns in Third World countries.

The new document endorsed struggle against tyrannical governments but warned the clergy against direct involvement in politics and against any efforts to inject Marxism into the church’s work on behalf of the poor.

In his letter, the pope said the church should create ″the space and conditions so that ... a theological reflection will develop that will be fully adherent to the constant teachings of the church in social matters.″

″At the same time, an effective practice should be developed to promote social justice and equity, and to safeguard human rights, the construction of a human society based on fraternity and concordance, truth and charity,″ John Paul said.

In this way, the pope said, ″it may be possible to break the inevitable consequences of the systems ... of unrestrained capitalism, of collectivism or capitalism of the state - both incapable of assuring the liberation brought by Christ.″

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