Distributed May 18, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin

Commencement 2000

Gutierrez, father of liberation theology, to give baccalaureate address

Gustavo Gutierrez, best known for his work, A Theology of Liberation, and his support for the poor in Latin America, will deliver an address to graduating seniors at Brown’s baccalaureate service on Sunday, May 28, 2000, at 1:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Meeting House, simulcast to The College Green.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gustavo Gutierrez, considered to be the father of liberation theology, will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors on Sunday, May 28 at 1:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. The baccalaureate service will be simulcast to The College Green.

Gutierrez, a theologian and Roman Catholic priest in Peru, is known for his 1971 work, A Theology of Liberation. In that work, Gutierrez called attention to the poor in Latin America and challenged his church to active participation in changing the economic and political systems that fostered social injustice.

The liberation movement gained strength in the 1970s under leaders including Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, who was killed in 1980.

Liberation theologians believe that God speaks particularly through the poor and that the Bible can be understood only when seen through their perspective. Because the ministry includes political activism, which often pits clergy against the ruling elite class, liberation theologians have been criticized by governments and the Vatican itself. Disturbed by what it considered Marxist overtones of class struggle, the Vatican published two cautionary documents in the 1980s: Instruction on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation and Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation.

In the 1990s, the Vatican continued its response with the appointment of more conservative prelates in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America.

Gutierrez, who turns 72 on June 8, remains an admired figure for his activism on behalf of the poor. In addition to ministering to parishioners in Rimac, Gutierrez is a professor of theology at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru and a prolific writer. He is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary degrees. In 1993 he was named a member of the Honor Legion by the French government, and was named to the Peruvian Academy of Language in 1995.

Brown University Chaplain Janet Cooper-Nelson called Gutierrez “priest in the great tradition of Tutu” and said she was honored that he accepted the University’s invitation to deliver the address.