The Catholic News Agency has published an interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former general in Romania’s secret police who was one of the Eastern Bloc’s highest-ranking defectors in the 1970s. In it, he says that the Soviet Union – and the KGB in particular – created Liberation Theology, the quasi-Marxist movement that flourished in Latin America from the 1960s to the 1990s. Previous popes, particularly St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have condemned Liberation Theology, and have written in unequivocal terms that it is “incompatible with the Christian Faith”.
Pacepa makes detailed claims that the Soviets kick-started, funded and moulded liberation theology. He cites as one of his sources Aleksandr Sakharovsky, the Russian agent who set up Romania’s secret police agency. Pacepa describes him as his ‘de facto boss’ in the 1950s. Sakharovsky later became head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.
Here are the key quotes from the interview:
The birth of Liberation Theology was the intent of a 1960 super-secret ‘Party-State Dezinformatsiya Programme’ approved by Aleksandr Shelepin, the chairman of the KGB, and by Politburo member Aleksey Kirichenko, who coordinated the Communist Party’s international policies.
The KGB began by building an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), which was headquartered in Prague. Its main task was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world.
The new Christian Peace Conference was managed by the KGB and was subordinated to the venerable World Peace Council (WPC), another KGB creation, founded in 1949 and by then also headquartered in Prague.
During my years at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community I managed the Romanian operations of the WPC. It was as purely KGB as it gets. Most of the WPC’s employees were undercover Soviet bloc intelligence officers…Even the money for the WPC budget came from Moscow, delivered by the KGB in the form of laundered cash dollars to hide their Soviet origin.
Pacepa claims that the KGB was directly involved in the holding of a conference by leftist South American bishops in Medellin, with the stated goal of institutionalizing a new form of Marxism under the guise of Liberation Theology:
I was not involved in the creation of Liberation Theology per se. From Sakharovsky I learned, however, that in 1968 the KGB-created Christian Peace Conference, supported by the world-wide World Peace Council, was able to manoeuvre a group of leftist South American bishops into holding a Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin, Colombia. The Conference’s official task was to ameliorate poverty. Its undeclared goal was to recognise a new religious movement encouraging the poor to rebel against the ‘institutionalised violence of poverty’, and to recommend the new movement to the World Council of Churches for official approval. The Medellin Conference achieved both goals. It also bought the KGB-born name ‘Liberation Theology’.
Condemned by Previous Popes
Pope John Paul II waged a decades-long campaign inside the Church to quash Liberation Theology and silence its most ardent supporters. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published the Instruction “Libertatis Nuntius” on August 6, 1984, with the approval of Pope John Paul II. Its purpose was to focus the attention of pastors, theologians and all the faithful on the deviations of Liberation Theology that are dangerous for the faith and for the Christian life and that are based on Marxist thought.
As pope, Benedict XVI exhorted all those who in some way feel attracted or affected by “certain deceitful principles of Liberation Theology” to re-visit the instruction and be open to the light that it can shed on the subject.
Liberation Theology is Rehabilited Under Pope Francis
The Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has written that with Francis’ election, Liberation Theology can no longer “remain in the shadows to which it has been relegated for some years.”
Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, the Dominican priest from Peru who is known as the father of Liberation Theology, was a featured speaker at an official Vatican press conference launching a major meeting of the Vatican’s charity arm, Caritas Internationalis, on May 2015.
On September 11, 2013, Pope Francis hosted Fr. Gutierrez in his residence, leading some to comment that this was a sign of warming relations between the hierarchy and liberation theologians. On January 18, 2014, Pope Francis met with Fr. Arturo Paoli, an Italian priest whom the Pope knew from Paoli’s long service in Argentina. Paoli is recognized as an exponent of Liberation Theology, and the meeting was seen as a sign of “reconciliation” between the Vatican and the liberationists.
Communist Cuba and Pope Francis
More recently, Pope Francis was the central figure in brokering a deal between Communist Cuba and the United States. In an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican on May 10, 2015, Cuban president Raul Castro thanked the pope for his role in brokering the deal: “I am very happy. I have come here to thank him for what he has done to begin solving the problems of the United States and Cuba.”