Leonardo Boff

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Leonardo Boff
Boff in 2003
Born Genézio Darci Boff
(1938-12-14) December 14, 1938 (age 79)
Concórdia, Santa Catarina, Brazil
Residence Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Theologian
  • writer
Spouse(s) Márcia Monteiro da Silva Miranda
Relatives Clodovis Boff (brother)

Leonardo Boff (Portuguese pronunciation: [leoˈnaʁdu ˈbɔf], born December 14, 1938), born as Genézio Darci Boff (pronounced [ʒeˈnɛzju daʁˈsi ˈbɔf]), is a Brazilian theologian and writer, known for his active support for liberation theology. He currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, and Ecology at the Rio de Janeiro State University.

Studies as a priest[edit]

Boff was born in Concórdia, Santa Catarina, Brazil, he entered the Franciscan Order in 1959 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1964. He spent the following years studying for a doctorate in theology and philosophy at the University of Munich, which he received in 1970. Boff's doctoral thesis studied in what measure the Church can be a sign of the sacred and the divine in the secular world and in the process of liberation of the oppressed. He has since published his thesis as a book available in German, entitled Die Kirche als Sakrament im Horizont der Welterfahrung.

His brother is the theologian Clodovis Boff.

Liberation theology[edit]

Boff became one of the best-known supporters (along with Gustavo Gutiérrez, Juan Luis Segundo and Jon Sobrino) of the early liberation theologians. He was present in the first reflections that sought to articulate indignation against poverty and marginalization with a promissory discourse on faith, leading to liberation theology. He continues to be a controversial figure in the Catholic Church, primarily for his sharp criticism of the church's hierarchy, which he sees as "fundamentalist", but also for his past critical support of communist régimes.

Political views[edit]

Boff is critical of secular power as well of American foreign policy. He opposed the Iraq War and considered George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon's leadership to be similar to that of "fundamentalist terrorist states." He also criticizes despotic rulers in the Middle East: "Those [emirs and kings] are despotic, they do not even have a constitution. Though extremely rich, they maintain the people in poverty."[1]

Boff has voiced his supported for the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reform in the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system.[2]

In November 2001, Boff said that "One of the worst fundamentalisms is that of neoliberalism".[3]


Authorities in the Roman Catholic Church did not consider acceptable Boff's views of the Church's leadership. They also saw his support of liberation theology as having "politicized everything" and reproached his proximity to Marxism. In 1985, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, directed at that time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), silenced him for a year for his book Church: Charism and Power.[4] He later accused Ratzinger of "religious terrorism".[5]

Boff was almost silenced again in 1992 by Rome, this time to prevent him from participating in the Eco-92 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which finally led him to leave the Franciscan religious order and the priestly ministry.

Boff joined the international group of Catholic Scholars who in 2012 issued the Jubilee Declaration on reform of authority in the Catholic Church.[6]

For most of his life Boff has worked as a professor in the academic fields of theology, ethics and philosophy throughout Brazil and also as lecturer in many universities abroad such as University of Lisbon, University of Barcelona, University of Lund, University of Oslo, University of Torino and others.

Boff commented on the election of Pope Francis in March 2013: "I am encouraged by this choice, viewing it as a pledge for a church of simplicity and of ecological ideals."[7] He said the new pope was conservative in many respects but had liberal views on some subjects as well.[8]



  1. ^ (in Portuguese) Interview to the Comunità Italiana: "[Os USA] fizeram alianças espúrias com os emires e reis. Estes são despóticos, sequer possuem constituição. Embora riquíssimos, mantém o povo na pobreza." November 2001
  2. ^ "Overview". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 2017-10-09.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ (in Portuguese) Interview to the Comunità Italiana: "Um dos piores fundamentalismos é aquele do neoliberalismo [...]." November 2001
  4. ^ Harvey Cox, The Silencing of Leonardo Boff: The Vatican and the Future of World Christianity (Oak Park, Ill.: Meyer Stone Books, 1988), pp. 178-88
  5. ^ (in Portuguese) Interview to the Comunità Italiana: "Um Cardeal como J. Ratzinger, [...], comete terrorismo religioso, [...]." November 2001
  6. ^ "Sponsors of the Catholic Scholars' Declaration A-B". Authority in the Catholic Church. John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Schmall, Emily (13 March 2013). "A Conservative With a Common Touch". New York Times. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "L. Boff: "Bergoglio aprobó que una pareja gay adoptara un niño"". Religion Digital. 17 March 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 


External links[edit]