Video: Arturo Sosa Addresses Latin American Theologians in Boston

Arturo Sosa is the current head of the worldwide Jesuit order. (Pope Francis is a Jesuit. The movie Silence is the story of Jesuits in Japan in the 1600s.)

This 5-minute video by Sosa gives context and direction to the leadership Pope Francis is offering the church and the world.

It was part of a unique gathering that just concluded at Boston College on the theology of Latin America. See an excerpt from the press release below:

The weeklong conference examined the role of liberation theology as Pope Francis and the Catholic Church respond to issues of globalization, migration and economic exclusion, said Boston College School of Theology and Ministry professor Rafael Luciani, a co-organizer of the conference with his Boston College colleague, professor Felix Palazzi.

Luciani said the theologians – among them professors, priests and Vatican officials – will return to their communities in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain with a renewed commitment to the Pope’s reforms and a deeper understanding of the pontiff’s own thinking, rooted in the “theology of the people” and liberation theology.

Two papal representatives, Cardinal Baltazar Porras, of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and Bishop Raúl Biord Castillo, SDB, together will present the group’s work to Pope Francis. Research and analysis from the theologians is scheduled to publish in a book later this year, said Luciani, a lay theologian from Venezuela.

The work of the conference is of particular importance in efforts to better serve Hispanic Catholics, who make up the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. church. Worldwide, more than 65 percent of Catholics live in the “Global South,” which includes Latin America and Africa.

Attending the conference were some of the leading figures in the birth of liberation theology, including Juan Carlos Scannone, SJ, a founding philosopher of the “theology of the people” and the pope’s seminary instructor, and Notre Dame University Professor Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, regarded as the founder of liberation theology.

Fr. Scannone reminded participants that the pope has called the poor “protagonists” and “makers of history.” He told the conference: “The poor should not just feel at home in church. They should feel like the heart of the Church.”

 

Thank You, Saul Landau!

Saul Landau in Chile
Saul Landau in Chile
Saul Landau, professor, activist, and author, died yesterday (see more below).

He died on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup that ousted democratically elected Allende and led to Gen. Pinochet’s reign of terror, atrocious Dirty Wars, turned the verb “disappeared” into a noun, and into which Landau was a leading investigator of human rights abuses.

In 1984, I had the great honor of studying Latin American History under Landau at the University of California, Davis. It was the height of the U.S.-funded wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. I was involved locally through my church in  the Sanctuary movement to illegally harbor war refugees and the Pledge of Resistance movement that vowed to risk arrest if the U.S. invaded Nicaragua. It was Professor Landau that helped me put what I was doing at church into the context of U.S. history and the mechanics of Empire. I’ve still got the “text books” he assigned.

Thank you, Saul. Presente!

Democracy Now! has a brief recap of Professor Landau’s life and work:

The award-winning journalist, filmmaker, author and professor Saul Landau has died at the age of 77. His death was confirmed by the Institute for Policy Studies where he was a senior fellow and vice chair of the IPS board. Landau made more than 45 films and wrote 14 books, many about Cuba. “He stood up to dictators, right-wing Cuban assassins, pompous politicians, and critics from both the left and the right,” IPS Director John Cavanagh said in a statement from the group. “When he believed in something, nobody could make him back down. Those who tried would typically find themselves on the receiving end of a withering but humorous insult.”

Landau’s recent film, “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?” exposed U.S. support for violent anti-Castro militants. Last year, Landau appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the history of the Cuban Five and U.S. support for a group of anti-Castro militants who have been behind the bombing of airplanes, the blowing up of hotels and assassinations. Today, they are allowed to live freely in the United States. “What did Cuba do to us?,” Landau asks. “Well, the answer, I think, is that they were disobedient, in our hemisphere. And they did not ask permission to take away property. They took it away. They nationalized property. And the United States … has never forgiven them.”

See more from Democracy Now! on Landau.

Activist Filmmaker Saul Landau Dies, 77 (Washington Post)

Falleció reconocido intelectual norteamericano Saul Landau (CubaDebate)

‘Las Novias’: Same-Sex Marriage in Mexico City

Mexico wedding portrait
Jesusa Rodríguez and Liliana Felipe

I love Mexico. And now I have a reason to love it even more. Tomorrow, Mexico City will be the first in Latin America to put into effect laws legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption. (Mexico City legalized same-sex civil unions back in 2007.) There is, of course, sharp criticism and hand-wringing from my beloved Catholic Church hierarchy and social conservatives — but with a 50 percent approval rate for gay marriage among regular Mexicans (89 percent of whom are Catholic), I’d say that the laity are once again leading the way.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Washington Post article:

On Thursday, [Mexico City] this sprawling megalopolis will catapult to the front lines of gay rights in Latin America when a city law legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption goes into effect. … Mexican actress Jesusa Rodríguez will marry her partner, Liliana Felipe, after 30 years together. “The important thing is that this law grants equality,” Rodríguez said. Many marriage-minded gay couples are preoccupied by concerns about the security of their loved ones. Reyna Barrera, 70, had a breast removed two months ago, and although she is weak from chemotherapy, she is busy planning her wedding to her partner of 36 years, Sandra Ponce. “This way, she is protected. She will get my pension, our house, everything from the life we built together,” said Barrera, a literature professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.

The Legislative Assembly passed the gay marriage act by a broad majority in December, as activists cheered and PAN representatives looked on in dismay. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a PRD leader, signed the bill into law — a first in Latin America. … Mexico City legalized same-sex civil unions in 2007; they also are recognized in Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, but advocates for gay rights say only marriage can protect the rights of families in such matters as property and custody. … An opinion poll by El Universal newspaper in November found that 50 percent of Mexico City respondents accepted gay marriage and 38 percent opposed it. Residents ages 18 to 39 were more likely to be supporters.

Read the whole article here.

My Day on the Hugo Chavez Show

Tonight, PBS’s Frontline will air “The Hugo Chavez Show: An illuminating inside view of the mercurial Venezuelan president, his rise to power, and the new type of revolution he seems to be inventing – on television.” In the Washington Post review of the show, David Montgomery writes:

What Americans have been missing is a direct encounter with the temperamental, charming, fierce, cruel, seductive, whimsical and overwhelming personality that comes through on “Aló, Presidente.” When Chávez, 54, isn’t ordering troops to the border, he’s singing folk songs, riding horses and tractors, tramping through gorgeous countryside or castigating cabinet ministers who fail pop quizzes that he administers as the cameras roll.

In 2004, I was in the audience for Chavez’ “Aló, Presidente” … for 5 hours. And this was one of his shorter

Hugo Chavez at taping of Alo Presidente 2004
Hugo Chavez on Alo Presidente in 2004/Berger

shows! It was one of the most fascinating examples of political theater I’ve ever seen. He used media deftly to create a politically engaged populace.

Here are some of my journal notes from that day – January 18, 2004 – Caracas, Venezuela:

We were invited to be in the audience during the screening of President Chavez’ weekly television program. After coffee and about an hour’s wait, we were led to a tent behind the presidential house where the filming would take place (it is in a different location each week) and seated in chairs with our names on them in the midst of cameras and microphones and the “set” for the show.

Then Chavez sat at a desk “on stage” and for five hours hosted a program with only two short breaks. He talked about teachers in honor of National Teachers Day – honoring and joking with the Minister of Education who was present. He introduced an old prize fighter who was also present. He talked about the cross and scapular he wears. He chatted on the phone through a call-in mechanism with a number of people from around the country – a young girl about her school, one woman about the need for her to get involved in elections for mayor in her town, another woman about jobs for her sons and her nephew.

He talked about how unemployment was often the result of the neoliberal capitalist model and how Venezuela was creating a new economy – that they were going to initiate another revolution within the revolution by starting a new “mission” called Mision Vuelven Cara. This new mission will train and incorporate workers into development projects that will emphasize small farms and forestry projects, petroleum related businesses, tourism etc. The unemployed will be included as they build Venezuela’s capacity for productive employment. Then he recommended a book on the rebellion of 1840.

Then he went on to talk about how Venezuela has a deficit of beef and would be importing beef for a while from Brazil and Argentina, but that Venezuelans will be trained to raise beef, as well as for dairy farming. He said that it was good for poor people to eat more beef for the protein and that beef would be made available in poor neighborhoods for purchase in small quantities. He introduced the new Minister of Defense. He read from newspaper articles about the strengthened position of Venezuela in the world.

Then he spoke about the 1979 Puebla Conference of Latin American Catholic bishops which outlined the preferential option for the poor and he talked about the death of Oscar Romero. Chavez said that the challenge before Venezuela now is to take up the challenge of an option for the poor. Fr. Roy Bourgeouis was invited to make a statement. Fr. Roy talked about the School of the Americas and asked Venezuela to stop sending soldiers there for training. Chavez listened very intently. When Roy finished Chavez said quite a bit about the SOA. He had obviously done his homework. Then he moved on to talk about the writings of John Kenneth Galbraith. And so the program went on and on.

Chavez continues to be an ego-obsessed narcissist who doesn’t mind using his cult of personality to promote a particular political and social agenda and he’s not above taking direct, anti-democratic action against his enemies and to maintain his own power. So what else is new in the world of politics?

He is also “the peoples’ choice” in Venezuela’s fair elections. This week Chavez’ party swept most states, according to The Guardian, in Venezuela’s regional elections. The record turnout of 65% among 16.8 million registered voters shows the passion and antipathy elicited by this larger-than-life personality.

The Frontline show is tough, fair, and shows Chavez with his good points and his bad points. “The documentarians credit Chávez with being the first president in the 50-year history of Venezuelan democracy to elevate themes of poverty and social justice to the top of national discussion,” writes Montgomery. “But they suggest that his methods for addressing those issues have been uneven and over-hyped.”.