Leonardo Boff

Awarded 2001


For his inspiring insights and practical work to help people realise the links between human spirituality, social justice and environmental stewardship.

Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian and one of the founders of Liberation Theology. Once a priest, he was twice silenced by the Vatican and left the church.  Still active as a lay priest in poor communities, he helps people find a vision encompassing social justice, human spirituality and ecology.

His work can be seen in ‘Base Christian Communities’ and found in the dozens of books he has written. He has advised popular movements and collaborated with Pope Francis on the encyclical Laudato Si. He keeps a blog where he compiles weekly articles on current topics translated into several languages.

We have forgotten that we are only a link in the immense current of life and that we are co-responsible for the common destiny of mankind and Earth.

Leonardo Boff, 2001 Laureate

For 20 years, Leonardo Boff was a Professor of Theology at the Jesuit Institute for Philosophy and Theology in Petropolis. Since 1993, he has been a Professor at the State University of Río de Janeiro, where he is now an Emeritus Professor of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology. He is also a member of the international initiative of the Earthcharter.

Boff was one of the founders of liberation theology. The Vatican silenced him in 1985 because of criticism of the Catholic Church in his book The Church, Charisma and Power. In 1992, receiving a second silencing order, he left the Franciscan order he was a member of, stating that "the future of humanity and planet earth" is more important than the future of the institutionalised church. He is, however, still active as a lay priest in poor communities, who are now finding a vision of social justice and community in the "Comunidades de base" or 'Base Christian Communities.

More than 100.000 of these grassroots Christian groups in Brazil attempt to fuse the teachings of Christ with a liberating social gospel. Boff believes these are the places where liberation theology is lived concretely, where the political dimensions of a liberating faith come into play, and where the poor can come to understand that poverty is not natural. The Comunidades de base continue to spawn leaders who work on behalf of the poor - in trade unions, political parties, and community organisations. Boff has worked closely with the Brazilian Landless Movement (MST), a 1991 Right Livelihood recipient.

Boff's more recent work has sought to integrate ecology into liberation theology. His book, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, is a synthesis of deep ecology thinking with radical social critique. One chapter celebrates St. Francis of Assisi as the paradigm of "the new covenant of the heart with all things", which is Boff's answer to the world's twin crises of poverty and ecological destruction. In 2009 The Tao of Liberation: Exploring the Ecology of Transformation (with Mark Hathaway) was released. Boff is the author of more than 70 books.

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