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RIO DE JANEIRO (Church Militant.com) - An aging Marxist theologian is singing the praises of Pope Francis' latest — and longest — letter to the bishops of the world.
In a recent blog entry, former Franciscan and liberation theologian Leonardo Boff touted Francis' 43,000-word encyclical Fratelli Tutti, signed Oct. 3 on the grave of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy. Boff likened Francis' new encyclical to a "lamp" to be used to negotiate the "dark clouds" of the current times.
Boff, a longtime friend of the pope, applauded Francis' innovative "vision of fraternity and social friendship," a vision that seeks for all people to inhabit a "common house."
Along with Francis, he chastised the "old" paradigm.
"It is anthropocentric. It is the kingdom of the dominus: the human being as owner and lord of nature and of the earth, which only makes sense to the extent that they [nature and the earth] are subject to him," Boff blogged, in an apparent reference to Genesis 1:28.
Faced with this old "self-destructive" vision of the world, the pope's new encyclical "proposes a new paradigm: that of the frater, the brother, that of universal fraternity and social friendship," he exclaimed.
The new paradigm "shifts the center: from a technical-industrial and individualistic civilization to a civilization of solidarity, of preservation and care of all life," he explained.
Taking cue not from Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross, Boff concluded: "In this [paradigm] turn is our salvation; we will overcome the apocalyptic vision of the threat of the end of the human species for a vision of hope, that we can and must change course."
Boff commended the diverse collection of mostly non-Catholic personages Francis cites in his encyclical who represent the "paradigmatic shift" and model "social and political love" the pope espouses. These include:
This is not the first time Boff has blogged about Francis.
In a 2015 entry, he expressed his support and concern for the pontiff regarding attacks from "conservative" quarters.
"In Latin America, in Brazil, in the Caribbean Islands and in other parts of the world, many of us are worried about the closed-minded attitudes and the attacks launched against you by conservative groups, which are in the minority but powerful, coming from inside and outside the Church," he lamented. "We regret that the most such groups do is say 'no.'"
Boff laid bare his feeling that the Catholic Church "cannot remain hostage to Western culture, which is a regional culture, however great the merits that it has accumulated," he maintained. "It is necessary for it to de-Westernize, opening up the process of globalization which favors the meeting of cultures and spiritual paths."
The pope took his turn to write in kind to his old friend.
In 2018, addressing him as "brother," the pope sent Boff a greeting for his 80th birthday. He thanked him for his support, reminisced about their early encounters at the Latin American and Caribbean religious conference between the years 1972–1975 and disclosed that he reads the theologian's writing. The pope added that he prays for Boff and his wife.
Before the ex-Franciscan closed his laud of Fratelli Tutti, he conceded that the "'dark clouds' will continue, but we have a lamp in this encyclical of hope from Pope Francis" that "is enough to glimpse the path to be traveled by all."
"The pope has done his part. It is up to us not to let the dream stay just a dream," he roused finally.
Boff was censured in 1984 by Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (later Pope Benedict XVI), and was dismissed from the Franciscan Order for his radical communist ideas, which he nonetheless continued to preach.