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Goizueta Wins Yves Congar Award For Theological Excellence

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

On Jan. 13, Boston College professor Roberto S. Goizueta was honored by Barry University with the Yves Congar Award for Theological Excellence. Each year the award, which honors Cardinal Yves Congar, seeks to recognize a Catholic theologian whose work moves Catholic theological tradition forward to deal with issues facing the modern church, as the Cardinal himself did in his teaching and writings. At the award ceremony in Miami Shores, Fla., Goizueta gave an address, titled "Against the Pursuit of Happiness: The Preferential Option for the Poor and the Denial of Death," reflecting on part of his work being honored that night.

Born in 1904, Congar devoted most of his scholarship to forming a modern style of ecclesiology. Rather than emphasizing the jurisdictional and hierarchical aspects of the Church, Congar sought to reinvigorate the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ. He focused on the importance of ministry and ecumenism as well as the role of the laity in the Church.

A professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' department of theology, Goizueta holds the Margaret O'Brien Flatley Chair in Catholic Theology. Since receiving his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Marquette University, he served as the president of the Catholic Theological Society of America in 2004 and 2005, and as president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States in 1990 and 1991.

In his research, Goizueta has focused primarily on U.S. Latino theology, but he has extended this into Christology and theological aesthetics as well. Given the increasing importance of the Latino community in the Catholic Church, there are many reasons that it interests theologians today.

"Soon [the Latino community] will be a majority of the United States' Catholics," Goizueta said. "How does this inform the larger church? How is God being made present in the Latino community? How do you affirm their value and integrate them into the community?"

One of the important issues that Goizueta has studied is the relationship between cultural traditions and religious practices. He cites a "cultural and religious fusion that adapts cultural traditions to religious life" as that which makes evangelization possible. One notable example of this is at the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio, the oldest continuously functioning cathedral in the U.S., where the pastor lets people bring their own traditions into the life of the Church, thereby creating "a source of vitality for the community."

This sort of popular religion has also been a part of his research that has dealt with Christology, the study of Jesus Christ. "What is the lived faith of Latinos in Latin America?" Goizueta asked. "How does popular religion contribute to our understanding of Jesus Christ? What wisdom can we learn from that?"

Stemming from his interest in Latino theology, Goizueta also examines the question of societal injustice, especially in regard to the poor and the immigrant. He explores the notion of the "Preferential Option for the Poor," an integral part of Catholic social teaching, in regard to the immigrant.

"[These are] questions for the theologian today to deal with," Goizueta said. "Who are the poor today? How is God being made present in the poor? How do we respond to the immigrant? How do you integrate them?"

In these pursuits, Goizueta has "engaged the Catholic tradition in order to respond to contemporary challenges, such as immigration and social injustice." In receiving the Yves Congar Award, Goizueta joins M. Shawn Copeland, who received the award in 2000. "I am honored to be associated with Yves Congar," Goizueta said.

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