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date: 30 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Before Vatican II, pastoral theology reflected a clear distinction between the ordained and non-ordained members of the Church, but a gradual nuancing of this issue was taking place in Latin America as early as the 1950s. In those areas, there had been rather intensive study of “modern” European theologians. Through their writings and pastoral visits to the region of America, these progressive European theologians began to strongly influence Latin American theology —especially in Chile and Brazil. This influence was shown through the beginnings of small Christian communities, and through an emphasis on doing “contextual” theology. This is a theology that emphasizes the experiential in the light of tradition, which eventually led to Latin American liberation theology. The Church of Latin America has long been a leader in innovations that incorporate the role of Scripture in everyday life: the preferential and evangelizing option for the poor, small Christian communities (also known as CEBs or BECs), lay apostolates and lay missionaries, and other endeavors to put the Church at service to the People of God. “Laying boots on the ground” has become truly essential to carrying out the Church’s mission in the world and pastoral ambience contributes strongly to this growing appreciation of the Catholic laity. Combined with the importance of theologically reflecting within the context of regional realities, this approach can provide hope for a challenged but youthful and vibrant Catholic Church of Latin America.

Keywords: contextual theology, experiential religion, liberation theology, Catholic Church, Christian community, People of God, CELAMsee-judge-act, Cuban house church, Papal Volunteers for Latin America

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