The book's release comes amid speculation by Vatican analysts regarding liberation theology, a controversial school of thought that developed in Latin America in the 1950s. Liberation theology has been criticized as a Marxist interpretation of the gospel, focusing on freedom from material poverty and injustice rather than giving primacy to spiritual freedom.
Although the meeting was not listed among the Pope's official private audiences, the Vatican confirmed that at the request of Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis this week received Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian theologian credited with being one of the founders of liberation theology.
Archbishop Müller's personal friendship with the 85-year-old theologian – who is thought to have become a Dominican in the late 90's to avoid being under the jurisdiction of the current Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani – has sparked speculations about how much Pope Francis supports the "official acceptance" of theology of liberation at the Vatican.
The speculations from some Vatican analysts grew after the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran a short essay from Fr. Gutierrez.
The essay was originally published as part of a book co-written with Archbishop Muller, published in Germany 14 years ago and recently translated to Italian. Gutierrez was in Rome for the presentation of the Italian edition.
However, Fr. Scannone – who taught Pope Francis during his formation period – contends that "there are different currents" within Liberation Theology, which he has studied extensively.