Cuban journalist and professor Enrique López Oliva died at his home in Kohly neighborhood, on Monday February 8th. He was 84 years old. His friends called him ELO.
After finishing high school at Colegio de Belén, López Oliva studied journalism at Escuela Carlos Márquez Sterling. With a solid Catholic formation and a sincere revolutionary commitment, he began his professional career writing for Prensa Latina News Agency, the newspaper El Mundo, and other publications, and focused his attention from the beginning on the study of the Christian movements in Latin America.
He collaborated on his specialty with the magazines Pensamiento Crítico and Tricontinental, among others, and his essay Los católicos en la revolución latinoamericana [Catholics in the Latin American Revolution] obtained recognition from the judges in the 1969 Casa de las Americas Literary Contest. Its publication contributed understanding to the reflections around this issue. He participated in the organization of the Seminars in Memory of Camilo Torres Restrepo convened by the Cuban Council of Churches, which where celebrated with the regular participation of Isabel Restrepo, the mother of the Colombian guerrilla priest, until the early 70s.
The ecumenism proclaimed at Vatican II had the support of the most advanced sectors of Cuban Protestantism. The only Catholic notables that attended these seminars were the jurist and lay author Raúl Gómez Treto and the film critic Walfrido Piñera, as well as Father Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y García-Menocal, with a proven inclination towards dialog, with whom López Oliva maintained an active pastoral collaboration in his last years at San Agustín Parish.
When the Commission for the Study of the History of the Church in Latin America (CEHILA) was founded, inspired by the II Conference of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM, Bogota, 1968), and established its headquarters in Mexico under the leadership of Enrique Dussel, López Oliva was designated Executive Secretary of the Cuban chapter. He dedicated himself to this activity together with Piñera, in the different stages that this organization traversed, with so many obstacles to overcome due to the limited understanding of the Church.
He taught courses on the History of Christianity in Latin America at the University of Havana, at the Higher Institute of Biblical and Theological Studies (ISEBIT), and in later years at the San Jerónimo University College. He also worked as correspondent in Cuba for various Latin American news agencies, such as Noticias Aliadas, of Peru.
ELO did not receive the recognition that he deserved for his wisdom and his rich trajectory from Cuban academic circles nor his religious institution. Father José María González Ruiz, one of the most progressive Spanish theologians post-Vatican II, christened him “a Catholic insufficiently understood and underutilized by his Church”.
With Temas, as with Cuadernos de Nuestra América, the journal of the Center of Studies on the Americas (CEA) before, he maintained a relationship of continuous and particularly valuable collaboration. Those who attended the Último Jueves debates over the course of 19 long years should remember him, for his active participation. "As you are surely accustomed by now, my question has to do with religion," he used to say with a complicit smile, in his amiable but also incisive tone.
We still count on you, ELO. Don´t get lost.
Aurelio Alonso, Advisory Council, Temas Journal.
Traductor: Rafael Betancourt