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Abstract

This study explores the present-day manifestation of liberation theology in the south of Pará, Brazil. Liberation theology has been widely recognized as an important development in theology and Latin American history that helped spark social movements across South and Central America in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In the Brazilian Amazon, progressive Church workers (mainly Catholic) have been historically aligned with movements to protect and regain land rights for poor rural workers. Because these movements and organizations are the primary defenders of human rights in this part of Brazil, researching the changing role of religion in their work is important to understand how marginalized people can most effectively organize for social justice. Using a combination primarily of semi-structured interviews and secondary-source research, this study attempts to answer the question: How have changes in the Catholic Church influenced its use of liberation theology in working with rural movements in the south of Pará? Analysis of results reveals that while the Church certainly no longer maintains the broad commitment to poor people and social justice that it had in the 1970s and 80s, the practice of liberation theology continues by way of the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission) and progressive Church leaders who remain in the area. However, the loss of full-scale hierarchical support of the Church has decreased the overall capacity of the CPT to support rural movements in reaching their goals and organizing across a broad base of people.

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