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Gutiérrez highlights Pope’s ‘preferential option for the poor’

| Friday, September 26, 2014

Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Theology and the ‘father of liberation theology,’ presented the keynote address, “Pope Francis and the Preferential Option for the Poor,” Thursday afternoon as part of the International Conference on Archbishop Oscar Romero, hosted by the Kellogg Institute.

20140925, %22Pope Francis and the Preferential Option for the Poor%22, 20140925, Annmarie Soller, Hesburgh Center, Rev. Gustavo GutierrezAnnmarie Soller | The Observer
Gutiérrez focused his talk on the Christian call to solidarity and social justice for the poor, while emphasizing the need to understand the fundamental connection between Christian theology and the eradication of poverty. Gutiérrez said “with the teachings of Francis, we are going back to our source.”

“To announce the gospel is this: Jesus is trying to make present the kingdom of God today, in our history,” Gutiérrez said. “To speak about the church poor means also to recall this link between the love of God and the love of our neighbor.”

Gutiérrez said the biblical passage of the last supper serves as a memory of Christ and his message of serving and loving thy neighbor. This passage, as well as others, demonstrated the connection between the church and the poor, he said.

“We have to recall a central point of the Christian message: we are challenged for this memory,” Gutiérrez said. “The center point is the relation between the kingdom of God and the poor. This point, I think, when we fulfill this, we are really in the center of the biblical message. The question of the poor is not only a social issue … it is above all a biblical issue”.

Gutiérrez also highlighted Archbishop Oscar Romero’s work with the impoverished and marginalized in El Salvador and said Romero’s legacy served as a “witness of the central point of the Christian message”.

Gutiérrez read a quote from Archbishop Romero, which said, “There is a criteria by which to judge if God is near or is far away. Everyone concerned about the hungry, the poor, everyone who has vanished in police custody, for those who have been tortured, for prisoners, for old people who have suffered, these have God close at hand.”

According to Gutiérrez, the ability to love and serve thy neighbor is best exemplified by an understanding of spiritual poverty and the ability to engage in solidarity and friendship with the poor.

Gutiérrez said the correct way to serve the poor is not to imitate a life of poverty, but rather to condemn poverty as a condition that dehumanizes others. He said the church does not condone poverty because it represents the marginalization and elimination of human identity .

“Poverty is never good. … Real poverty is not only economic, it is political, social”, Gutiérrez said. “The poor are [perceived as] insignificant people for several reasons: cultural reasons, racial reasons, gender reasons. To be poor is to be nothing.”

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