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The Catholic Church in Peru: 1821-1985, A Social History.

Latin American historians and missiologists welcomed this book when it first appeared in Spanish, in 1988. Now we congratulate the publishers for making it available in English. The evolution of the Catholic Church in Peru during the last two centuries illustrates well what happened also in other parts of Latin America. With this volume historian Jeffrey Klaiber has accomplished well his intention "to fill a lacuna in contemporary studies of that Andean republic" (p. ix). Since 1963 Klaiber has been a Jesuit missionary in Peru, where he is highly respected. This book reflects his immersion among the people, as well as his patient work at church archives across the nation, which has given him a unique grasp of the social and cultural history of the country and the region.

Klaiber's work on the Peruvian church covers the period after independence from Spain in 1821 up to the first visit of the pope in 1985. Over forty pages of endnotes, bibliography, and reference to sources give an idea of the amount of research on local, regional, and national levels that has accumulated in recent years. Klaiber has incorporated it into ten very readable chapters.

The book opens with a comprehensive summary of the development of the church in Latin America since the sixteenth century. Following methodological insights from Ivan Vallier and Enrique Dussel, Klaiber pays special attention to the way in which "the church in Peru, as in any other place in the Catholic world, was influenced, molded and conditioned by the social milieu in which it exists" (p. 3). He has tried to recover the memory of bishops and priests who worked for the poor. He has documented the course of European and North American missionary orders that brought renewal in our century, as well as the rise of laypeople to key leadership positions and movements as diverse as liberation theology and the Catholic charismatics.

Klaiber does not spare criticism of structural weaknesses, and he does not hide the tensions brought by the application of Vatican II. Ultraconservative Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, when he was still president of the Council of Bishops of Latin America (CELAM), attacked this book violently. That could be taken as a good indication of the quality of the research and the pastoral courage of the interpretative keys used by Klaiber.
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Author:Escobar, Samuel
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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