Continued from Page One: liberation theology would suffer as a result of sanctions against Fr Sobrino.
Jesuit Fr Juan Antonio Estrada of the Theological Association of John XXIH, said that to censure Fr Sobrino would be to condemn liberation theology itself.
"There can be no doubt that Sobrino is the ultimate reference and one of the grand masters of the spirituality of liberation," he said.
Fr Sobrino has published a number of books on liberation theology, including Jesus the Liberator, Christ the Liberator, Christology at the Crossroads, The True Church and the Poor, and Spirituality of Liberation.
Both Pope Benedict and his predecessor Pope John Paul II have opposed liberation theology because it draws on the Marxist categories of social and economic analysis that were popular in European universities in the 1970s.
The system decries "sinful social structures" of established capitalist societies and calls on the Church to exercise a "preferential option for the poor".
Its most radical proponents have attempted to justify class war and bloody revolution as the "second violence" of the poor against the "first violence" of unjust dominant social structures.
Liberation theology has been massively influential in Latin America and the Pope could face protests over the decision to discipline Fr Sobrino when he visits to Brazil in May as it remains popular there. Fr Sobrino has discussed his problems at length with Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the Father General of the Society of Jesus, who promised him that the Jesuits would support any decision he made.
But a colleague of Fr Sobrino said the Jesuits were still hoping for a miracle to resolve the dispute.
"After a long struggle we are exhausted more than indignant and have the feeling that there is no remedy but they [the Jesuits] have asked us to say nothing in case things change at the fatal hour," he said.
Fr Sobrino has declined to comment.
Pope Benedict's new book Jesus of Nazareth is expected to go on sale in early April.