base ecclesial communities
(Sp. comunidades eclesiales de base).
Small neighbourhood groups, mainly in Latin America, who integrate spiritual and social issues, mainly by reflection on the dialectic between Scripture and experience. Led by lay men and women, their formation was encouraged by the RC Church hierarchy in an attempt to mitigate the shortage of priests in the second half of the 20th cent.; they were formally recognized by the Latin American bishops at Medellín in 1968 and in Paul VI's apostolic exhortation ‘Evangelii Nuntiandi’ (1975), sections 58 f. They were involved in social issues and, inspired by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Eng. tr., 1970), increased literacy and awareness of human rights, as well as fostering basic developmental programmes. They exercised political influence in some countries, e.g. Brazil, and provided a springboard for Liberation theologians, most of whom were inspired by the theological insights they learnt from the struggles of poor communities.