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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Gustavo Gutiérrez awarded Gittler Prize for theology work

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: News

Next month, Gustavo Gutiérrez will accept the Gittler Prize at Brandeis for his influential work as a world renowned theologian and priest. The prize, which includes $25,000 and a medal, is awarded every year to recognize individuals who “make lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations.”

Gutiérrez, born in Lima, Peru, spent a majority of his youth in school. He obtained a medical degree from the University of Peru in Lima, studied psychology and philosophy and went on to earn a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University of Lyon in France.

Between studies, Gutiérrez was ordained as a priest and worked at the Iglesia Cristo Redentor in Peru. Today, Gutiérrez works as a professor at the University of Notre Dame and holds almost 20 honorary degrees.

While Gutiérrez has many published works such as “On-Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent” and “We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People,” he is most well known for his book “A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation.”

This world-renowned book is among one of the most important books is the world of theological studies. Additionally, Gutiérrez is known for the creation of liberation theology, a religious movement that attempts to apply faith to motivate people to help the poor and oppressed.

Reverend Walter Cuenin, Brandeis University’s Catholic Chaplain and Coordinator of Interfaith Chaplaincy, explained that liberation theology is “a movement in the last century to help, especially in poor countries, poor people organize to come together to see that the Bible really should inspire them to come together and take control of their lives.”

Not only will Gutiérrez’s liberation theology transcend time, but so will the impact he had on countless communities in Latin America. For example, he founded the Bartolomé de Las Cases Institute in Lima. Work was conducted there to assist liberation and human development in Peru, especially regarding the poor.

In addition to improving communities in Latin America, he has influenced priests around the world. As Cuenin said, “I think his work and others like him influence me in the sense that I was early on quite conservative. And then, it all changed because I saw another world and it freed me a little bit to speak out for the needs of people. For example, in a church, the Catholic Church, I have always been speaking for the rights of women and for gay rights. His book did influence me.” Cuenin also believes Gutiérrez’s work is so influential and honorable that “the Pope has opened up the way for Gutiérrez to perhaps be called a Saint down the road.”

Winning the Gittler Prize will put Gutiérrez in the company of other scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins, who studied the intersection of gender, race and class, along with Doug McAdam, a researcher of social movements, and many others.

Gutiérrez will be on the Brandeis campus on Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. for the ceremony in Rapaporte Treasure Hall Goldfarb Library. He will give a talk, introduced by Cuenin, at the ceremony.