Saint Francis of Assisi and Liberation Theology

Anthony John Ciorra, Fordham University


The purpose of this dissertation is to evaluate Leonardo Boff's claim that St. Francis of Assisi should be named the patron saint of liberation theology. The major works of Juan Luis Segundo are used to represent the thought and methodology of liberation theology. Selected writings of St. Francis and St. Bonaventure are used to model the Franciscan vision. The historical contexts of St. Francis and Segundo are underscored. The Franciscan agenda of poverty, minority, and relationships was formed during its foundation and expansion periods, i.e., from the beginning of St. Francis' conversion process in 1204 to the election of St. Bonaventure as Minister General in 1257. Latin American liberation theology's most important component is its methodology that begins with the experience of the poor, and its content is influenced by centuries of injustices done its people. Favoring the poor is the common ground shared by these two movements. For the first friars, insertion among lepers generated a new religious community, which sought to imitate the kenosis of Christ through the virtue of poverty to liberate the human spirit. For liberation theology, the Option for the Poor generated a new theological method that addresses the sinfulness of the poverty that is caused by unjust social structures. In this dissertation, the author proposes that St. Francis' contribution to liberation theology is his articulation of a liberating poverty that can enhance liberation theology's spirituality and root it more fully in the Christian tradition. Liberation theology's contribution to the Franciscan Movement is its methodology that provides a tool for viewing Franciscan sources which reveal that its early vision implicitly challenged hierarchical and wealthy ecclesial and social systems. This dissertation concludes by suggesting a synthesis between Lady Poverty and the Option for the Poor through the use of St. Bonaventure's spiritual structure to create a mysticism that addresses the needs of today's poor lepers. Despite the differences between these two expressions of poverty, the author suggests that they have enough in common to form this synthesis. He concludes by concurring with Leonardo Boff's proposal that St. Francis of Assisi should be named the patron saint of liberation theology.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Ciorra, Anthony John, "Saint Francis of Assisi and Liberation Theology" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9127025.