Latin America: Catholics get involved politically

With the support of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Academy of Catholic Leaders will train people to assume political responsibility.

The year 2023 was significant for the future of Latin American politics. The electoral calendar included general elections in Paraguay, Argentina, and Guatemala, as well as legislative elections in Chile and Peru. In democratic countries, elections have major implications for the economy, security, social justice, and human rights.  But in many parts of the world, Christians avoid involvement in politics and are reluctant to engage politically and economically in society.

According to Jose Antonio Rosas, director-general of the Academy of Catholic Leaders, there is a misunderstanding about the faith among many Catholics, who tend to withdraw from the world because they see it as a source of problems and insurmountable challenges.

“The idea that politics corrupts has led to a situation where even countries with a great number of Catholics are bereft of politicians who can reflect Christian values.”

“Of course, politics sometimes corrupts, but that is why we need committed politicians, with a Christian sense of responsibility. If we want results, we must get in the game,” says Rosas.

He adds that a good Christian needs to be a good citizen, and politics is the ideal tool to help further the common good. 

Participants of the course at the Parish Hall of the Cathedral of Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica.

The challenge of the scarcity of Christian leaders

According to Rosas, Latin America faces a number of problems. The many demonstrations held across the continent reflect a deep social crisis. Nonetheless, Christian leaders are few and far between. Rosas regrets this absence and points out that more atheistic politicians are often more successful during social revolutions, which end up turning into anarchy.  

The Academy of Catholic Leaders is trying to change this lack of commitment by training individuals who are committed to Christian values and can have a positive influence on society. “Only with active participation in politics can we achieve positive change in society,” he stresses.

Prayer and compassion as keys to political commitment

Training in Catholic social doctrine is crucial for Catholic leaders. Rosas stresses that this training is not limited to studying theory, but includes forming consciences and turning people into Good Samaritans. “Manuals can be very useful tools, but you need compassion in the face of human suffering,” says Rosas. This, he insists, is the key to change.

The Academy of Catholic Leaders focuses on having a personal relationship with Jesus, without imposing an ideology or a specific moral code: “Lay Catholics must commit to politics with a strength that can only come from prayer. Only then will they be able make the sacrifice of leaving their comfort zones and dedicating their life to an ideal, without their faith being lost,” says Rosas. He adds, however, that because politics can lead to isolation, it is crucial to have the support of a community.

Rosas says that he is grateful to ACN for the support it has given this project, specifically by helping 12 training centers with a basic program: “This training is especially relevant for those who live in remote areas, where we are trying to foster social involvement. Thanks to the Academy, many people have decided to enter politics and contribute to the greater good of the community.”

—Maria Lozano