In a wide ranging interview this week for Irish Jesuit Podcasts and local radio, Michael O’Sullivan SJ contextualises the words and deeds of Pope Francis. Having himself worked in El Salvador and Pinochet’s Chile he talks about the moral morass he found himself in, the importance of liberation theology and his friendship with Sr Pat Farrell, former head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
Now Director of the M.A. in Applied Spirituality in All Hallows College Dublin, Michael O’ Sullivan SJ has taken a keen interest in the papacy to date of Pope Francis and the media coverage of it. He was particularly affected by the debate surrounding the role of Jorge Bergoglio during Argentina’s so called ‘Dirty War’ as it evoked for him still vivid memories of the time he spent in Chile during Pinochets’ dictatorship.
He worked with small communities and justice groups there and was under constant threat of violence and even death. He knew first hand the moral dilemmas people in authority with responsibility for the safety of others faced and he says it’s all too easy to judge from the outside when you have no idea of the complexity of the problems encountered by people working at the coal face.
He recounts the story of a young woman activist and her ten year old daughter whom he met in El Salvador. The mother who was gang raped by the military there still could not tell her daughter who her father really was. And he explains how the God of liberation theology was the God who made sense to people like her and to him in those situations. Undoubtedly, he says, Pope Francis too has been influenced by this theology.
More tentatively he speculates that the Pope may also have been influenced by the Russian Orthodox theologian and martyr Pavel Florensky who wrote about the beauty that is the Spirit of God and which transforms ethical actions into holy actions. You can listen here to the full interview with Pat Coyle of the Jesuit Communication Centre.