Celam III (the third Latin American Conference of Bishops) will pass down in history as a continuation and deepening of CELAM II (Medellín, 1968) but with a clear-cut effort to steer the church away from the so-called theology of liberation and to bring it in line with the Evangelii Nuntiandi of Paul VI.

Initially convened over two years ago by Pope Paul VI and last year by John Paul I, CELAM III took place in Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico, January 27 to February 12 (see Mar. 23 issue, p. 46). A full evaluation of the results of this conference on “The Present and Future Evangelization in Latin America” must wait for the study of the final document.

CELAM II dealt with “The Latin American Reality in the Light of Vatican II.” The sixteen Medellín documents viewed the church as “the church of the poor” and committed her to the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed and to the development of communidades de base (basic communities). In the words of an observer, the greatest accomplishment of CELAM II was “a holistic liberation springing out of man’s heart but including all the structures which, as emerging from the human heart, are evil.”

In a real sense, at Medellín a new day dawned for the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America. One aspect of it was the willingness of many in the clergy to suffer for the sake of justice; so much so that it has been estimated that during the last decade approximately 840 bishops, priests, and nuns have been brutally treated, jailed, tortured, exiled, or assassinated in Latin America. On the other hand, the liberation theologians (among them Gustavo Gutierrez, one of the chief drafters of the Medellín documents) appealed to CELAM ...

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