VATICAN CITY, July 21 (Reuters) - The Vatican has stripped the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, one of the most prominent centres of learning in Latin America, of its right to continue calling itself a Catholic or pontifical university, saying it had damaged the interests of the Church.

The university in the Peruvian capital, Lima, was founded in 1917 and has been identified with liberal, progressive thinking for decades.

Gustavo Gutierrez, the priest considered the founder of the Liberation Theology movement, taught there for years. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and former President Alan Garcia are both graduates.

The Vatican said on Saturday that the break came after the university had several times unilaterally modified its statutes and had "gravely prejudiced the interests of the Church". It did not elaborate.

The rector of the university, Marcial Rubio, has been at odds with the archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, over control of the institution.

In 1986, the university gave an honorary doctorate to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)