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date: 06 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Revolution divided Roman Catholics during the twentieth century in Latin America. Although Catholic activists formed ranks on all sides of Latin America’s social conflict, revolutionary anticlericalism, land reform, and state education became important wedge issues that kept the Catholic Church hierarchy on the side of counterrevolution. This chapter surveys Latin America’s “Big Three” social revolutions, beginning with Mexico (1910–1940), Cuba at mid-century, and Nicaragua in the late 1970s and 1980s. Catholic political and social allegiances, as well as the similarities across the century provide the focus of much of the chapter. The chapter argues that Latin America’s Cold War added ideological pungency and superpower conflicts to the region’s already festering mix of social exclusion, poverty, and oligarchical hegemony. Some attention is given to the emergence of the liberationist perspective. The result of Latin America’s revolutionary century can be seen in a shift within the moderate group of Catholic leadership, both lay and clerical, toward a more empathetic view of the poor. The development of Liberation Theology, endeavouring to answer endemic issues of poverty and economic inequality, helped focus the Church’s mission in the region after the Second Vatican Council. The chapter ends with a final parting note regarding the election of Pope Francis and how Latin America’s first pope was formed within the region’s revolutionary twentieth century.

Keywords: Catholic Church, Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Sandinistas, Cristeros, Catholic Action, liberation theology, Vatican II, Pope Francis

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