THE BLOG
01/28/2015 01:20 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2015

How Pope Francis Is Carrying Out a Revolution

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MANAGUA - In March of 2013, I was asked in an interview: What did I think of an Argentine pope?

It was a surprise for me that they had not elected a European pope and that it was a cardinal I had known nothing about. The existing cardinals had been named bishops by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and they were conservative and reactionary. I did not expect anything new from this papal election. In fact, I did not have any interest in it.

But from the moment the new pope went out on his balcony, I noticed changes. He came out wearing a simple white robe, rejecting other papal garb with golden adornments and fabric. On the balcony, before giving the pope's traditional blessing, he bowed before the multitude, asking for their blessing.

Instead of one of the traditional papal names, he took Francis. Leonardo Boff was very right when he said later it was not simply a name, but a life project he chose. And in this case, it was not just a new pope, but a new project for the church.

We are seeing a true revolution in the Vatican. Pope Francis does not want to live like a pope. He has refused to occupy the pontiff's palace, with its 14 rooms. He has rejected the popemobile. He talks directly to people on the telephone. He uses simple and clear language. He does not want to be called pope, but simply bishop (the Bishop of Rome).

Pope Francis has not talked about liberation theology that I know of. But liberation theology is not something one believes in -- it's something one practices. I think the name "liberation theology" is not as strong as it could be. It would be better understood as "revolutionary theology."

This theology is the true theology of the Gospel, which comes from a Greek word that means "good news" and "announce the good news." The meaning Jesus gave to it was good news for the poor, for their liberation. Which is the same as revolution. Or changing the world. Turning the world upside down. Or better put, righting the world, because right now it is upside down.

Under the pontiffs Juan Pablo II and Benedict XVI, the bishops and priests of liberation theology were replaced by conservative elements from the far right. Everything that had to do with this theology was suppressed. At the same time, the U.S. government fought this theology by appealing to fundamentalists who preached an individualistic and conservative gospel. They fought the liberation guerrilla groups with counter-intelligence forces and a most cruel repression that created an immense multitude of martyrs.

In the so-called Santa Fe Document, under the title "A New Latin American Policy for the 1980s," President Reagan was advised to combat the liberation movements by promoting U.S. fundamentalist churches in Latin America. In 1999, the School of the Americas, which trained soldiers and gave them classes in repression and torture, declared that liberation theology had been defeated with the help of the U.S. Army.

During John Paul's second visit to Nicaragua, journalists on an Alitalia flight asked him about liberation theology, and the Pope said it was no longer a danger because communism had been defeated. But from the depths of the Amazon, Bishop Casaldaliga said: "While there are poor people, there will be liberation theology."

For me, the election of this new pope is like a miracle. Pope Francis is carrying out a revolution in the Vatican. It will also be a revolution in the world, setting it right because it is upside down. The revolution of Jesus of Nazareth:

The last will be first, and the first will be last.