The following comes from a May 1 Catholic News Agency article:
Espionage deep in the heart of Europe. Secrets in the KGB. Defection from a communist nation. Ion Mihai Pacepa has seen his share of excitement, serving as general for Communist Romania’s secret police before defecting to the United States in the late 1970s.
The highest-ranking defector from communism in the ‘70s, he spoke to Catholic News Agency recently about the connection between the Soviet Union and Liberation Theology in Latin America. Below are excerpts of the interview. All footnotes were provided by Pacepa.
In general, could you say that the spreading of Liberation Theology had any kind of Soviet connection?
Yes. I learned the fine points of the KGB involvement with Liberation Theology from Soviet General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, communist Romania’s chief razvedka (foreign intelligence) adviser – and my de facto boss, until 1956, when he became head of the Soviet espionage service, the PGU1, a position he held for an unprecedented record of 15 years.
Was the Theology of Liberation a movement somehow “created” by Sakharovsky’s part of the KGB, or it was an existing movement that was exacerbated by the USSR?
The movement was born in the KGB, and it had a KGB-invented name: Liberation Theology. During those years, the KGB had a penchant for “liberation” movements.
The birth of Liberation Theology was the intent of a 1960 super-secret “Party-State Dezinformatsiya Program” approved by Aleksandr Shelepin, the chairman of the KGB, and by Politburo member Aleksey Kirichenko, who coordinated the Communist Party’s international policies. This program demanded that the KGB take secret control of the World Council of Churches, based in Geneva, Switzerland, and use it as cover for converting Liberation Theology into a South American revolutionary tool. The World Council of Churches was the largest international ecumenical organization after the Vatican, representing some 550 million Christians of various denominations throughout 120 countries.
The birth of a new religious movement is a historic event. How was this new religious movement launched?
The KGB began by building an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference, which was headquartered in Prague. Its main task was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world.
The new Christian Peace Conference was managed by the KGB and was subordinated to the venerable World Peace Council, another KGB creation, founded in 1949 and by then also headquartered in Prague.
During my years at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community I managed the Romanian operations of the World Peace Council. It was as purely KGB as it gets. Most of the council’s employees were undercover Soviet bloc intelligence officers. Its two publications in French, Nouvelles perspectives and Courier de la Paix, were also managed by undercover KGB – and Romanian DIE2 – intelligence officers. Even the money for the World Peace Council budget came from Moscow, delivered by the KGB in the form of laundered cash dollars to hide their Soviet origin. In 1989, when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, the World Peace Council publicly admitted that 90% of its money came from the KGB3.
How did the Theology of Liberation start?
I was not involved in the creation of Liberation Theology per se. From Sakharovsky I learned, however, that in 1968 the KGB-created Christian Peace Conference, supported by the world-wide World Peace Council, was able to maneuver a group of leftist South American bishops into holding a Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin, Colombia. The Conference’s official task was to ameliorate poverty. Its undeclared goal was to recognize a new religious movement encouraging the poor to rebel against the “institutionalized violence of poverty,” and to recommend the new movement to the World Council of Churches for official approval.
The Medellin Conference achieved both goals. It also bought the KGB-born name “Liberation Theology.”
[For more background on the topic, see Edward A. Lynch’s The Retreat of Liberation Theology]