José Comblin 1923-2023

Today is the centenary of the birth of French liberation theologian, missionary and JOC chaplain in Brazil, José Comblin.


Born in Belgium in 1923, Joseph Comblin was ordained to the priesthood in 1947.

In 1961, he published a famous book “Echec de l’Action catholique?” ( Failure of Catholic Action?), which was widely interpreted as a critique of the Cardijn movements.

Nevertheless, Comblin went to work first in Chile from 1962-65 and then to Brazil at the invitation of Dom Helder Camara.

He organised several campaigns of popular evangelisation in rural areas (which he described as “theology of the spade”) and participated in the creation of the first “base communities”. 

He also became a YCW chaplain in Campinas, Brazil.

His political activism and his publications provoked the irritation of the Brazilian and Chilean military regimes, which expelled him in 1972 and 1980 respectively.

Authorised to return to Brazil in 1980, he continued his mission of evangelization among the poor, while publishing numerous works, including Teologia da libertaç ão, teologia neoconservadora e teologia liberal (“Theology of liberation, neo- conservative and liberal theology”) in 1985.

José Comblin died on March 27, 2011 in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.


Jose Comblin (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Jose Combin (Encyclopedié Universalis)