The “effective love” of the priest Camilo Torres and the fraction of the Church that was persecuted as “communist” when doing popular works

Spread the love

His last days were lived as an ELN combatant, but before his death he had already sown the revolutionary seeds in some parts of the Church. These factions suffered systematic persecution while the legacy of the priest was embodied in that guerrilla and in the student movement


Oscar Mauricio López

The ‘effective love’ of the priest Camilo Torres and the fraction of the Church that was persecuted by ‘communist’ when doing popular works

For the priest Camilo Torres, the majorities were the less favored classes, and although much of his life was against violence, he leaned towards the armed struggle when he enlisted in the ELN. PHOTO: Infobae (Jesús Avilés)

“I opted for Christianity because I considered that in it I found the purest way to serve my neighbor. I was chosen by Christ to be a priest forever, motivated by the desire to give myself full time to the love of my fellow men. As a sociologist, I wanted that love to become effective through technique and science. When analyzing Colombian society, I have realized the need for a revolution to be able to feed the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and achieve the well-being of the majority of our people,” said priest Camilo Torres Restrepo in a statement to the press in 1965, a year before he died in his first combat as a member of the ELN.

Those majorities he was talking about were vulnerable communities, the lower and middle classes, and public university students. His first conviction was based on the fact that, from the clergy, he could make the social transformations that Christianity demanded; in fact, he was one of the first to bring the theory of Liberation to Colombia, being a pioneer in the immersion of this concept and in the unification of the left that, by the 40s, were repressed given the international context with the Cold War.

After his death, the Golconda movement was born to continue his legacy and make the peasantry and the rest of the majorities feel that a part of the Church (clinging to the State) could be with them. This institution was already fearsome in various sectors, especially in the liberal ones, since some of the most Gothic priests even gave orders to take up arms to end the germ of the 'communist threat' embedded since Operation Yarborough.

The influence of parish priests on political decisions in the towns was of such magnitude that, if they said that their detractors had to be killed, they did so. On the other hand, Camilo, whose priestly order he received in 1954, gradually inclined his vocation towards the poorest and proof of this was the work he did in the seminary. Finally, his inclination left her fully visible when he went to study in Leuven (Belgium); there he obtained his degree in sociology with the thesis 'A statistical approach to the socioeconomic reality of Bogotá'. When he returned to Colombia, he joined the most progressive current of the Catholic Church, radicalizing his position.

“He had great charm, he subdued with his words, whether as a priest or later, In the few months that he was a political leader, he had true charisma, but what keeps Camilo's memory alive is precisely that factor of sincerity, which was the price he paid with his life,” said former President Alfonso López Michelsen in the documentary < i>Camilo, the guerrilla priest.

The legacy he left behind in the insurgency after dying as a member of the ELN

According to the Truth Commission, Camilo joined the ELN once he took off his cassock and sent him a letter letter to the Coadjutor Bishop of Bogotá in June 1965. By then he was already a political leader; in fact, he founded the United Front as a counterweight to the National Front .

“Torres went from rejecting violence to taking up arms, given the persecution, stigmatization, and risk he was running,” the entity describes. His insistence on electoral abstention to overthrow the traditional political classes, the achievement of the revolution above ideas, the Christian duty within it and the expansion of the United Front were some bets that fit with the ELN's doctrinal approach.< /p>

On the other hand, it created a fraction of the Church away from the elites and focused on the peasantry, the indigenous people and the marginalized populations that settled in slums built “in the misery belts of the cities.” It was not the only example of 'revolutionary' priests before the clergy: Ignacio Betancur Sánchez founded the Municipal Association of Peasant Users of Pueblorrico, in Antioquia. Camilo's seed had already been sown and he was an example for future priestly generations and for the National Liberation Army itself.

Added to that, in the cities the student movement became a the main urban ally of the peasantry and in the 1960s they began their political radicalization. In turn, Camilo had been reiterating that Christian love had to be “effective” to make the revolution beyond ideas. The fraction of the Church clinging to the State continued aligned with conservatism, and on the other hand, other clerical groups took popular actions. Against them there was also persecution.