Mario I. Aguilar

‌Professor of Religion & Politics

Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion & Politics


I was appointed to a Chair in Divinity (Professor of Religion and Politics) in 2006 and became the director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP) in 2005. I completed my PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London) in 1994 and I arrived in St. Andrews in October 1994, having previously obtained degrees (STB, MA) from the Katholieke Universiteit Louvain. I served as Dean of Divinity from 2002-2005.

I am an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS, 2013), Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (FRAS, 2012), Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA, 2011), Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute (FRAI, 1996) and a member of the UNESCO commission of Scotland.

I have completed a biography of Pope Francis (Pope Francis: His Life and Thought, 2014) that connects with many of my works on the history of the Church in Latin America and Latin American theologies previously published, including: A Social History of the Catholic Church in Chile (9 volumes, 2004–), The History and Politics of Latin American Theology (3 volumes, 2007-2008),  Cardenal Raúl Silva Henríquez: presencia en la vida de Chile 1907-1999 (2004), and Current Issues on Theology and Religion in Latin America and Africa (2002).

It is my contention that religious and theological narratives need to be understood and critically assessed within the social context in which the religious and the political encounter each other. It is with this theoretical interest that I became General Editor of the Handbook of Liberation Theologies (De Gruyter, 3 volumes) and that I have asked questions, for example, about God, torture, genocide and globalization: Ministry to Social and Religious Outcasts in Africa (1995), The Rwanda Genocide (1998), Theology, Liberation, Genocide: A Theology of the Periphery(2009), Religion, Torture and the Liberation of God: Liberation Theology within Globalization (2014).

I am an eremitic Camaldolese Benedictine Oblate (hermit) and I have an interest in the theology of contemplation and the history of monastic life in Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism: Contemplating God, Changing the World(2008), The Stranger in Thomas Merton and the 14th Dalai Lama (2010), Merton, Marcuse and Monasticism: Critical Dialogues on Love and Religious Diversity (2010), and Thomas Merton: Contemplation and Political Action (2011).

Questions of contemplation, the history of religion and issues of inter-faith dialogue brought me to the study of Tibet, its history and the monastic developments within Tibetan Buddhism. I outlined some of these connected areas through my professorial inaugural lecture at the university in 2008, a lecture that was subsequently published as “Religion, Politics and Liberation: A Dialogue between Gustavo Gutiérrez, the 14th Dalai Lama and Gianni Vattimo”, Political Theology 12 (2011/1), 144-166. In 2008 I gave the annual lectures at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), Dharamsala, India, in which I explored the historical dialogue between the Jesuits and the lamas of Tibet in the light of the founder of the Geluk Tibetan monastic order Tsong-Khapa, lectures that were later published as “The Jesuits in Tibet at the Time of the VI and VII Dalai Lamas”, Tibet Journal 35 (2010/3), 61-77 and The Jesuits in Tibet at the time of the VI and VII Dalai Lamas (2010). I also delivered a set of lectures at the LTWA in 2014 on the theme of “The History of Ganden, Sera and Deprung monasteries in Tibet before 1959”. Other works on the history of Tibet include The Rising of the Dalai Lamas in Tibet: From the First to the Fourth 1391-1617 (2011). I am preparing a manuscript on the history of Tibet with the provisional title of A History of the Lamas in Tibet 1391-2006.

I consider that inter-faith dialogue has become a very important arena for contemporary theologies and the contribution by scholars of religion and theology in the contemporary world. I have outlined some of these possibilities in Church, Liberation and World Religions: Towards a Christian-Buddhist Dialogue (2012) and “Dialogue, Liberation and Justice” in David Cheetham, Douglas Pratt and David Thomas (eds.), Understanding Interreligious Relations (2013). I have a particular interest on the lives of Abbé Jules Monchanin, Dom Henri Le Saux, Dom Bede Griffiths and Francis Mahieu.

I lived in Kenya for four years and I have a personal research interest in the history of Christianity in Africa, African theology, systems of kinship and descent, ritual, and social organization among pastoralists, particularly but not exclusively in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am an associate member of the Anthropos Institute (Germany) and I have provided advice and expertise on Africa to the British government, particularly through expert witness to courts of law in Europe and the United States. Main publications include: Dios en Africa: Elementos para una Antropología de la Religión (1997), Being Oromo in Kenya (1998), The Politics of Age and Gerontocracy in Africa: Ethnographies of the Past and Memories of the Present, ed. (1998), Rethinking Age in Africa: Colonial, Postcolonial and Contemporary Interpretations of Cultural Representations, ed. (2007) and Oromia and East Africa in the 21st Century: Shifting Paradigms towards Religious and Political Diversity (2010).

I have an interest on the link between biblical studies and anthropology and together with Dr Louise Lawrence (University of Exeter) we edited the proceedings of a conference that took place in St. Andrews: Anthropology and Biblical Studies: Avenues of Approach (2004). Other of my publications on biblical literature include: “Rethinking the Judean Past: Questions of History and a Social Archaeology of Memory in the First Book of the Maccabees”, Biblical Theology Bulletin 30 (2): 58-67, 2000; “Time, Communion and Ancestry in African Biblical Interpretation: A Contextual Note on 1 Maccabees 2: 49-70”, Biblical Theology Bulletin 32 (3): 129-144, 2002; “The Archaeology of Memory and the Issue of Colonialism: Mimesis and the Controversial Tribute to Caesar in Mark 12:13-17”, Biblical Theology Bulletin 35 (2): 60-66, 2005; and “Symbolic Wars, Age-Sets and the Anthropology of War in 1 Maccabees”, in Philip F. Esler, ed. Ancient Israel: The Old Testament in Its Social Context, 240-253 (2006).

I am a poet and some of my published collections of poetry include A las puertas de la Villa Grimaldi: Poemas (2008), Retorno a la Villa Grimaldi (2009), Pausas: Poemas de Villa Grimaldi a India (2009), Manifiesto del Bicentenario: Poemas (2009), Sueños y cuerpos: Poemas (2009), Epistolario de la memoria: Poemas (2009), Planetas y Números: Poemas (2009),  A las Puertas de la Villa Grimaldi: Poemas (revised second edition, 2010), Gaviotas y cormoranes en Algarrobo: Cántico y poesía (2010), Terremoto y otros poemas a nuestro planeta (2010), and Cántico a la justicia (2010).

Contact details

Mario I. Aguilar
Professor of Religion & Politics

St Mary’s College
The School of Divinity
University of St Andrews
South Street
St Andrews
Fife KY16 9JU
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: + 44 (0)1334 462835
Fax: + 44 (0)1334 462852