The role of Father Gustavo Gutiérrez was key: he made us see that liberation did not come only from political parties, but that what the poor needed and the world needed was a prophetic voice; that it would remind us that fidelity to God cannot be done by forgetting the poor. That helped us a lot in our pastoral work. These were the words of the priest and companion on the way, Jorge Álvarez Calderón, during the Eucharistic celebration held on June 7 in the Basilica of the Rosary and Convent of Santo Domingo, in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the life of the Peruvian Dominican, internationally recognized for his theological work.
Father Gutierrez has dedicated his whole life to finding an answer to a great question: how to tell the poor that God loves him, when the reality of his life seems to be the denial of all forms of love?
Therefore, he has not been a desk theologian, but a person committed to the people from the beginning of his priesthood. As parish priest in the Rimac, a popular neighborhood of Lima, he was very close to the daily life of men and women, always attentive to their problems, to learn about the nature of the poverty that emerged in the periphery of the capital, a product of the accelerated migratory changes of the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, his great contribution constitutes a renewed understanding of poverty in its triple dimension: real, spiritual and in solidarity. He came to understand poverty as synonymous with death as opposed to life, and that in the Latin American context it was due to structural causes (social injustice) that had to change. And it was the poors, in recognition of their dignity, who were the true agents of that change.
Gustavo and Francisco
Today we live in an era influenced by a thought that emerged from the Latin American ecclesial experience, starting with the 1968 Medellin Episcopal Conference, whose contribution to the universal Church is visible and palpable in these new times, as Pope Francis reminds us. For this reason, it is significant that the Pope has sent a letter of greeting for Father Gustavo’s 90th birthday, recognizing his contribution to the Church and to humanity through his theological service and his love for the poor and marginalized of society. Gustavo thanked him for this gesture: “I was pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis’ letter. Thank you very much for that greeting and I want you to know that it inspires me to continue with the tasks I have as a priest.
At the end of the Mass, the religious thanked everybody for the gestures he had received and, as a personal assessment of his life, said that his theological work was “like writing a love letter to God, to the God of my faith, to the Church of which I am a part and to the people of which I am a part. If I did it well, I don’t know. I did it regularly, anyway. God will have mercy, as Francis likes very much to say , as something that the person of God expresses, but I have sincerely made an effort to respond to this quotation of the text of Micah (6:8) – to respect justice, to love the other and to walk humbly with your God”.