The Vatican has restored indigenous deacons in Mexico, in a rare reversal of policy which appears to signal an end to official ecclesiastical suppression of Liberation Theology and practice.
Last month Mexican Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel announced that after a 14 year suspension, indigenous deacons would again be ordained in the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
In a striking statement, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the current head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (the Vatican organisation that once spearheaded the Vatican attack on Liberation Theology under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) recently placed Liberation Theology in context with the work of the 'great Doctors of the Church like St Augustine and St Thomas.'
Cardinal Müller also edited a collection of essays on Liberation Theology—including one by its founder, Peruvian Gustavo Gutiérrez—published with a preface by Pope Francis and published in February.
Pope Francis welcomed Gutiérrez to the Vatican during his stay in Rome for the presentation. In his first official teaching document, The Joy of the Gospel, Francis exhorts Catholics to 'overcome suspicion' and embrace 'a Church with many faces.'
Still, until now, Francis had not rescinded the actions of two predecessors who censured liberationist theologians and dismantled institutions that promoted liberationist thinking and practice. But the Pope's approval of Bishop Arizmendi's plan to ordain 100 new indigenous deacons to serve the Maya populations of Chiapas is a game changer.
Ordination of Maya indigenous deacons in Chiapas was the brainchild of Bishop Samuel Ruiz (1924-2011), one of the beloved 'red bishops' of Latin America and a renowned advocate of Mexico's Maya and other indigenous peoples during his four decade episcopal ministry. An erstwhile seminary rector, Bishop Ruiz was 'converted' by the poor of his diocese, much as Archbishop Oscar Romero had been.
- Ruth Choinacki and Jennifer Scheper Hughes
Vatican reverses anti-liberration policies in Mexico (Religion Dispatches)