Kozhikode, Oct. 24, 2018: Jesuit Father Kurien Kunnumpuram, a noted Indian theologian, died just five days after his admirers organized a two-day national seminar to honor him.
About 45 scholars of philosophy and theology came together in the southern Indian state of Kerala to deliberate on the theological significance of Father Kunnumpuram, who is popularly known as Father Kurien. The 87-year-old Jesuit theologian died on October 23, after being in comma for 20 days.
The seminar titled, “Fr Kurien Kunnumpuram, SJ: A Theological Inspiration,” noted that Father Kurien was one of the pioneering theologians of Vatican II and was internationally recognized as a thinker and writer of eminence.
He often reflected and wrote on questions such as: What is the relevance of Vatican II for the Indian Church? How does acts of piety relate to depth in spirituality? How can spirituality humanize us and take us to our fellow human being and to God?
During the seminar, Father Kurien’s last book “Freedom and Joy” was released. In the book Kurien perceived freedom and joy as essential characteristics of a Christian. Jesuit Father Kuruvilla Pandikattu opined that the person of Kurien himself personified both these freedom and joy of the Gospels.
At least 18 papers were presented at the October 17-18 seminar organized by the Kerala Province of the Society of Jesus at Socio-Religious Centre, Christ Hall, Kozhikode, its headquarters.
The papers urged the Church to be open to dialogue, become a community of love and humanize Christian spirituality.
Kerala Jesuit provincial Father George Mutholil, who opened the seminar acknowledged Father Kurien as someone who had challenged him to grow. “As a scholar and mentor he had a way of accepting everyone personally and encouraging them to grow,” he added.
Fr Kurien’s life and writings had challenged priests to practice a spirituality of active involvement in the lives of people. The senior Jesuit also wanted priests to practice an “integrated spirituality – integrating life, prayer and work, instead of ‘scattering their energies in many directions,” Father Mutholil added.
Jesuit Father Stephen Chundamthadam, director of Samanvaya (integration), Institute of Advanced Indian Spirituality, Kanjirapally, studied Father Kurien’s humanizing and integrating spirituality that fosters freedom, joy and intimate experience of God, leading to fellow human beings.
Bethany Sister Surekha Lobo, Centre for Women’s Studies, Pune, spoke of a spirituality that humanizes and enables people to be better humans.
Fransalian Father Jacob Parappally, chief editor of the “Journal of Indian Theology,” elaborated on “ways of salvation” and “the way of salvation” which Kurien explored in connection to Vatican II.
Carmelite Father Mathew Chandrankunnel, director of the Ecumenical Centre, Bangalore, spoke of the need to dialogue with Hinduism and bring about an East-West complementarity continuum.
Father Paul Raj, Papal Seminary, Pune, spoke of the love commandment of St. Paul, which is related to and different from Jesus’ love commandment.
Father Paul Thelakat, editor of “Sathyadeepam (Light of Truth),” Ernakulam, elaborated on the distinction between madness and sanity, in relation to contemporary society.
Jesuit Father PT Mathew of Christ Hall, one of the seminar coordinators, urged the theologians to bring the heart dimension into theologizing.
“Unfortunately, we missed Father Kurien’s physical presence during the seminar, since he was in Nirmala Hospital, Kozhikode,” said Father Pandikattu, another coordinator.
“But we felt his empowering presence, urging them to be more human and to experience God, especially in our neighbors,” he added.