International gathering at Notre Dame examines "Option for the Poor in Christian Theology"

by Michael O. Garvey

Prominent theologians, church leaders, pastoral workers and activists came together at the University of Notre Dame last week to examine the Church’s role in understanding and addressing poverty. The Nov. 10-13 conference, entitled “The Option for the Poor in Christian Theology,” included more than 700 participants from the United States, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.p. Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P., John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Theology at Notre Dame; David Tracy, professor of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School; Rev. Virgilio Elizondo, visiting professor of theology and Latino studies at Notre Dame; and Elsa Tamez of the Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana in Costa Rica were among the speakers. Fifteen young theologians from around the world also spoke on the final day of the meeting, receiving a cross and a commission from Father Gutierrez to return to their countries “not to be the voice of the poor, but to join their voices with all those who wish to eliminate poverty and injustice.”p. “We wanted to build on the life and work of Gustavo Gutierrez, who is widely recognized as the father of liberation theology,” said conference organizer Rev. Daniel Groody, C.S.C., assistant professor of theology and an associate director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. “The event was unprecedented for two reasons: First, it deepened our understanding of the complex causes of poverty and reminded us to consider not only spiritual but economic, cultural, racial, ethnic and gender dimensions which shape and influence the reality of the poor. Secondly, the conference inspired the next generation to continue the work of foundational thinkers in liberation theology and to build new networks of younger leadership for the future.”p. Along with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, more than 20 Notre Dame institutes and departments sponsored the conference, including the Department of Theology, the Institute for Latino Studies, the Office of the Provost, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Mendoza College of Business, the Law School, and the Center for Social Concerns.p.

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