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Pope leads 'revolution of tenderness' says theologian

Juan Carlos Scannone close to Bergoglio in Argentina

05 March, 18:39
Pope leads 'revolution of tenderness' says theologian (By Francesca Ambrogetti) (ANSA) - Buenos Aires, March 5 - Theologian Juan Carlos Scannone used just a few words to describe Pope Francis: ''He leads a revolution of tenderness''.

A theologian of liberation - a movement in Catholicism known as theology of the people which focuses on helping the poor in the social as well as the religious realm - Scannone is a professor of philosophy in the Jesuit seminary of San Miguel near Buenos Aires.

''I teach philosophy but often slip into theology'', Scannone, 82, told ANSA.

In the interview, he spoke about doctrine and his personal memories of the long period spent by Jorge Mario Bergoglio at the Seminar of San Miguel, one of many under-privileged suburbs of Argentina's capital often cited by the pontiff, who studied there and was a professor and parish priest in San Miguel.

''We spoke about everything'', Scannone said of the time spent with Bergoglio.

''I remember the period of the dictatorship. ''He asked me not to send letters from the post office in the area but from another location because he was convinced they were checking our letters. ''He always told me not to go back to the chapel at night by myself from a working-class neighbourhood nearby where I was doing social work. ''He always wanted to see me with someone else so that if I were abducted there would be at least a witness''. And when authorities asked him about Scannone because they were suspicious of his writings ''in which I used the world 'liberation', he defended me saying I was orthodox and trustworthy'', he said.

When asked how he would describe the first year of Francis' pontificate, Scannone stressed the importance of the way in which the pontiff presents himself, not just of his actions, and the response given by believers and non-believers - ''a reaction which raises great hopes for the church worldwide as the pope is not just a religious leader'', he said.

Scannone quoted as an example the success of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro last summer as well as current events in Italy, where he has noticed growing enthusiasm for the pontiff.

The Argentinian theologian then asked to be allowed to set aside media-related considerations and to discuss philosophy.

He quoted Paul Ricoeur and the importance given by the French writer to semantics as well as the way in which something is expressed: ''In Francis, what is in fact important is how he says things which becomes part of the message and empowers it''.

Asked what he thinks has changed in the man since he became pontiff, Scannone stressed that ''he is a new Bergoglio, but not because he broke up with his previous identity''.

''He improved when he was made auxiliary bishop and the same happened with his new roles.

''It is one of his traits: more than being able to switch into a new role, he knows how to embrace a new mission'', continued Scannone.

''He has a lot of experience and is able to adapt, always remaining faithful to who he is.

''He was my student in Greek and literature at the seminary while he was studying Latin'', he also remembered while discussing the first year of his pontificate.

''The first fundamental point is that he let himself be guided by the Holy Spirit, I can see it when I look at his face.

''He started a reform of the Curia, confronting economic issues and giving space to collegiality.

''On the front of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, he is continuing the work he has always carried out in Buenos Aires, especially in the dialogue with Jews and Muslims.

''And he has introduced a very important document, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he outlines a road for the future''.

Scannone said he believes Pope Francis is more of a pastor than a theologian: ''He knows theology very well but he is more a pastor and, as such, he often gets inspiration from Argentina's theology of the people''.

The movement saw the light in Buenos Aires after the Second Vatican Council.

It seeks branches of interpretation, which are neither liberal nor Marxist, of Latin American society not only from a humanistic perspective but also through the history of populations as the protagonists of culture.