I continue to be overwhelmed by the extremely positive responses of so many people who are ordinarily the most critical of the Roman Pontiff, regardless of who that person happens to be (Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, etc.). Two of these figures are significant theologians that have received, at different times and for different reasons, critique from the Vatican for their scholarly work: Leonardo Boff and Hans Küng.

In an earlier New York Times article seeking various reactions about the election of Pope Francis, Boff (a former Franciscan friar), was recorded as saying:

““I am encouraged by this choice, viewing it as a pledge for a church of simplicity and of ecological ideals,” said Leonardo Boff, a founder of liberation theology. What is more, Mr. Boff said, Cardinal Bergoglio comes from the developing world, “outside the walls of Rome.”

Recently, on his blog, Boff wrote:

Why did Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio choose the name Francis? I think it’s because he realized the Church is in ruins because of demoralization due to the various scandals that have affected the most precious thing it had: morality and credibility.

Francis isn’t a name; it’s a plan for a Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power. It’s a Church that walks the way together with the least and last, that creates the first communities of brothers and sisters who recite the breviary under the trees with the birds. It’s an ecological Church that calls all beings those sweet words “brothers and sisters”. Francis was obedient to the Church and the popes and at the same time he followed his own path with the gospel of poverty in hand.

Perhaps even more surprising than Boff’s response to the election of Pope Francis and the pontiff’s choice of pontifical name, is Hans Küng’s enthusiastic, if at times cautious, reaction. He has a powerful interview (in English) with CBC Radio: “Hans Küng on Election of Pope Francis.” The ten-minute interview is well worth the listen.

My hope is that this rather old pope lives a long enough life, short though it might be as Bishop of Rome, to inaugurate the reform he has signaled in the small and pastoral moves he has already made.

Photos: File


  1. There is an English translation of Boff’s blog entry at Iglesia Descalza:
    I am finishing up a translation of an interview of Jon Sobrino, SJ, which is also fairly positive.
    This morning the radical priest in the parish where I sometimes worship here in Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, was very hopeful about Pope Francis.
    The campesinos I work with are also impressed, not only with his being a Latin American, but above all with his simplicity.

    1. Thank you John Donaghy. I have shared this with several of my Religious Sister friends and my grandson who is vitally interested in Pope Francis and who joins in the renewed sense of hope that his election has brought to our badly fractured, bleeding Church.

      It’s still March 17th here so a very happy and blessed St. Patrick’s Day to you. In case you’re as proficient in Gaelic as you are in Spanish:

      Dia Beannacht Leat!

    2. Thanks, John, for the Sobrino translation.

      Jon Sobrino is a the sole Jesuit priest at the University of Central America to survive the 1989 massacre that killed 6 of his Jesuit brothers, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. He is a liberation theologian and was notified by the Vatican in 2007 that his writing may be “erroneous or dangerous or may cause harm to the faithful”.

      In his book, No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays (Orbis Books), he writes poignantly about his Jesuit brother Ignacio Ellacuria, the theologian and university president killed with the others in 1989:

      “When Ellacuria ‘took hold of the reality’ of the Third World, he grasped it in an important way as a ‘crucified people’ … Ellacuria said that the crucified people are one of the main features of our time, not merely something factual that we may consider, but something central that must be considered, without which we do not have a full grasp of reality,”

      There is another side to this “Catholic” story, one that is mysterious and risky, even dangerous. Sacraments are about reality, not magic. Jon Sobrino, and many of the other liberation theologians get this.

      Though I am thrilled with Pope Francis, I am very interested in how Sobrino is seeing him.

  2. Keep it coming, Fr. Dan. Your two posts today re Pope Francis are just what I was hoping that you would cover. I value your studied input. Have problems with the NY Times’ often one-sided slants.

    I’m especially glad that you are providing some reliable info on Pope Francis and the Liberation Theology backlash during his tenure as Archbishop in Argentina.

    I read the press accounts and literature written about Liberation Theology during the period of the ’60s and ’70s, up to and including the assassination of Archbishop Romero in 1980. It is my opinion that the Jesuits and others who believed in this theology were treated unfairly by the pope and the Curia over this matter.

    Pax et Bomun, Fr. Dan.

  3. He should focus more on our one and only savior Jesus Christ though. He should be of a major witness to this rather than focussing on Mary. Jesus Himself said that ” who is my mother, brother or sister? They are all those who believe in me and have faith that I am the true messiah”
    Please pope Francis, bring Jesus into our lives and teach us to call only upon His name. Then the church will be united into the one body of Christ waiting as a bride for her Groom.
    Love in Christ to all.

  4. My hope is that the emergence of this new moment in the Church’s life will find each of us invited to examine ourselves, critique ourselves, purify ourselves of all that is extraneous to the one thing needed. And there are widely different forms of being extraneous. Each of us participates in many. And it’s so much easier to see it in others, virtually any others. Especially since there may well be others whose focus is on seeing it in me. Of that, I can do nothing. Of my own focus, I can do something. And that, I think, is at least part of what Pope Francis is saying.

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