Kneeling at the Feet of the Poor: Pope Francis and Liberation Theology
Kneeling at the Feet of the Poor: Pope Francis
and Liberation Theology
Francis is drawing attention from people around the world. Those who have never
read anything about the Pope now follow his every move on the news and in social
media. His witness in living the Gospel is drawing renewed interest in
Catholicism and in what it means to be a Christian in a world filled with
individualism, capitalism and consumerism.
Pope has shown that he loves the poor, the marginalized and the outcasts. Just
two weeks after Pope Francis' election, on Holy Thursday of 2013, he washed the feet of
women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center.
in 2014, he broke from tradition and washed the feet of 12 disabled and elderly
people of women and non-Catholics. The Pope kneels to wash, dry and kiss the
feet of disfigured, ignored and lost people to show that all are loved and
worthy in the sight of Jesus. Then in 2015, he washed the feet of 12 inmates and
a baby at Rome's prison on Holy Thursday to continue his tradition of serve as Jesus served.
ministry of Pope Francis has caught the world's attention with the result that a
renewed sense of hope, love, mercy and grace is beginning to fill the world wide
church. Much of his ministry springs from his embrace of liberation theology.
Since becoming Pope, he has invited Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican and has
embraced other Latin American priests who speak about the poor and who support
Liberation Theology. A Dominican priest, Gutierrez is regarded as the founder of
Liberation Theology, since he invented the term with his first book, Teología
de la liberación in 1971. Gutierrez understood that poverty was a result of
unjust social structures and he sees that God has a preferential option for the
Francis has taken the initial steps toward making Archbishop Oscar Romero a
saint. Romero was beatified in San Salvador on May 23, 2015. This process was
met with much resistance before Pope Francis' time. This action focuses the
world's attention on our sisters and brothers who are poor as it recognizes
Romero's profound commitment to and work with people who are living in poverty
and marginalized by the powerful.
Francis emphasizes Jesus, who preached in Galilee, and who lived among the poor,
rather than the Christ of Constantine's Nicene Creed, who was shaped for
imperial wealth and power. Jesus was born at a time of religious corruption and
imperial Roman domination. He was born during the reign of the despot Herod. His
family became refugees and fled to Egypt. Jesus' ministry was about liberation.
His ministry took place in the context of occupation, oppression and
resented the oppression and corruption of the Temple and the Herodians and
earned the resentment of both. Those who are pro-imperial and those who support
occupation are not living out the gospel. Herod accepted the privileges of those
under occupation. The religious leaders taxed and suppressed the poor.
spoke to the people who were poor and who lived in rural areas. They were
laughed at and marginalized, but Jesus argued that they were the salt of the
earth. He taught and revealed that we measure character not by kingship, nor by
the upper classes who were oppressors, but by how we treat the least of his
brothers and sisters: the hungry and the naked, those who are pressed against
the wall, those who are despised and those who are in need. Jesus empowered the
poor, fed them, brought sight to them, and forgave them of their sins. He
liberates his followers for mission: to feed the poor, take care of the needy,
and set the captives free.
ministry of Jesus for the poor is continued on by Gustavo Gutiérrez and people
like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Archbishop Oscar
Romero. Dr. King's last effort was building a multiracial, multicultural
coalition of poor and working poor. He believed there should be a floor beneath
which no one should fall and understood that poverty is a weapon of mass
destruction. Poverty often cripples the body, destroys the spirit, crushes our
dreams and eliminates our life options.
Francis stands in this tradition. Pope Francis understands that poverty is a
systematic problem intertwined with the rise of capitalism, greed and
globalization. Faced with this reality, he embraces the Jesus of history and not
the Christ of mystery. This allows him to speak to the condition of the people
in authentic ways.
Pope's crucial work of engaging with liberation theology is changing the
landscape of the church. It is putting the work of the church in the line with
Jesus' own ministry which was for the poor, the marginalized and the