Rev Fr Kurien Kunnumpuram SJ passed away on October 23, 2018 at 10:30 PM, at Nirmala Hospital, Marykunnu, Kozhikode, Kerala. The funeral is on 25th October at 11:00 PM. RIP.
There was a Eucharist Celebration for him, at 6:45 AM, on Oct ober 25, presided over by Rt Rev Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Poona. A short interview with him on Fr Kurien.
Thinker and Formator
The passing away of Fr Kurien Kunnumpuram on 23rd October 2018 was a shocking and saddening news to me. He was 87 years old and most of his priestly ministry was done in the Papal Seminary and in Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV). I am immensely grateful to Fr Kurien, since he encouraged me, he guided and has made an immense contribution to what I am today. I shall remain always immensely grateful to him for his bonds of friendship and generosity with me.
He certainly was one of the best and most eminent theologians of India. He has written scores of books and many theological articles based on research. His thinking and writings were marked by originality and creativity. He was bold in his thinking. Certainly, he remained within the faith of Catholic Church, which was shaped by his study of the documents of Vatican II. His own doctoral thesis on the document of Second Vatican Council. He certainty was one of the best read persons on Second Vatican Council. He would profusely quote and refer to the documents of Second Vatican Council. It is he who helped the student and members of staff here in Papal Seminary and Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeth to get more and more acquitted with Second Vatican Council. He certainly was an epoch in the history of the catholic church. I would say, he has greatly shaped, fashioned and impacted by Second Vatican Council, which opened the doors of the Church to the world.
Gaudium et Spec guided us to take the realities of the world seriously, with its hopes and dreams. This is how Kurien shaped his theology. Courageously, boldly and in the light of Second Vatican Council.
Fr Kurien, apart from being my friend, was an eminent theologian, a skilled writer and a good formattor. He and I lived in the Papal Seminary for many long years. I can say even when I was a student and later as a staff that Kurien became a rallying point for the seminarians. The seminarians will turn to him in moments of difficulty. Kurien was always welcome them and make himself available to them. They trusted him, felt supported and encouraged by him. I could see that they loved him and they were very fond of him. So I would say Fr Kurien was a good formator in the seminary for the generations of priests in the modern world, after Second Vatican Council.
I thank and praise God for the person, the theologian and the formator that Fr Kurien was. He was a creative thinker, an innovative thinker and a courageous thinker. He certainly was a gift to the church in India and in his own way to the Universal Church.
May his soul rest in peace!
+Bishop Thomas Dabre
Kurien Kunnumpuram: A Person of Freedom and Joy
1. The Person
Prof Kurien Kunnumpuram,SJ (1931-2018) is no more physically present with us. He completed his PhD on Vatican II from the University of in 1968, just three years after Vatican II. The next year he joined Papal Seminary Community, teaching at Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeth and remained here till 2013. This means he has spent 44 years out of 87 years in Pune. On September 25, 2018 he was admitted in the hospital in coma state, due to a blood clot in the brain. Sadly after 29 days in coma, he breathed his last on October 23, 2018.
He is an eminent thinker and creative theologian. He started the journal Jnanadeepa: Pune Journal of Religious Studies in 1998. He worked as editor of Asian journal for Religious Studies for more than ten year. He was the first editor of Encyclopedia of Christianity, published by Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth. Author of more than 20 books in areas of Church (Ecclesiology), Anthropology and Spirituality, he has contributed significantly to theologizing in the Indian context. On 17-18, October a seminar was organized in Kozhikode, to honour his contribution to Indian theologizing, where more than 40 participants studied 18 papers on themes dear to Kurien’s heart.
One of the creative and significant Indian theologians, Kurien’s last book, aptly titled “Freedom and Joy” signifies his own life. As you know, Gandhi, dared to say, “my life is my message.” Kurien would not really make that claim, but his life came very close to the message of this book. He is quite convinced that freedom and joy are essential characteristics of our Christian existence.
He, along with Francis D’Sa and George Soares-Prabhu, belonged to the second generation of theology professors at JDV, who brought about the emphasis on freedom and Indian orientation in the campus. [The first generation being Fr Lionel Mascarenhas, Fr Carlos D’Mello SJ and Fr Joe Miranda SJ]. Further, as you know, he followed the footsteps of great man like Scripture scholar Fr Francis Pereira SJ (1931-2014), liturgist Fr Lorenzo Fernando (1947-2017) and Indian philosopher Fr Noel Sheth SJ (1943-2017).
2. Freedom of the Children of God
After a careful investigation of the Kingdom of God which was central to the life and ministry of Jesus the great Scripture scholar George Soares-Prabhu has come to the conclusion that Jesus was the supreme example of the freedom of the Kingdom of God. Soares-Prabhu states: “Jesus moves through the pages of the Gospel as the supremely free man. He is driven by no demons of greed or ambition – for the Son of Man “has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58) and has come “not to be served but to serve” (Mk1K 10:45). He is daunted neither by the pressures of heteronomous law (Jn 8:1-10) nor by the violence of established authority (Lk 13:31-33). With supreme freedom he challenges the most sacred institutions of his people when his concern for his fellowmen impels him to do so. He breaks the Sabbath (Mk 7:1-15), touches lepers (Mk 1:42), dines with the socially outcast and with sinners (Mk 2:15-17).”
Jesus’ mission was to liberate people. He said that the Spirit of the Lord “has sent me to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18). Jesus frees human beings from sin and guilt (Mk 2:1-12). He frees us from the routine of ritualism (Mt 6:7) and from the oppressive burden of the law (Mt 11:28-3 and 23:4). He liberates us from the terrible isolation to which we can be condemned by social ostracism (Lk 19:1-10), ritual uncleanness (Mk 1:40-45) or mental ill-health (Mk 5:1-21). He calls his followers to freedom from possessions (Mk1:16-18; 10:1) and from unhealthy family ties (Lk 9:61). He invites them to put all their trust in God so that they need no other security in life (Mt 6:25-34).
As a result of his personal encounter with Jesus, Paul exclaims: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1).
In 2013 Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation: The Joy of the Gospel affirms: “God’s mercy has willed that we should be free”. This warning, issued many centuries ago, is most timely today. So Kunnumpuram reminds us of the powerful words of St Paul: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters” (Gal 5:13).
3. The Joy of Being a Christian
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem an angel of the Lord told the shepherds: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Lk 2: 10). In the Gospel of Mark Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God has come (Mk 1:14-15). Now joy is one of the fruits of the Kingdom (Rom 14:17). Towards the end of his ministry Jesus declared: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).
Jesus tried to explain this joy and this celebration to the Pharisees by telling them three parables: The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Lk 15). It is highly significant that each of these parables ends with joy and celebration.
The last parable is extremely significant. After listening to the parable one wonders: Who is the lost son? The younger son who went away from the Father and lived riotously with his women? Or the elder son, who, like a true Pharisee, kept the law most faithfully? The younger son was able to receive God’s forgiving love, rejoice in it and celebrate it. But the elder son was not able to do so. So, he is really the lost son! To quote the South African Dominican theologian Albert Nolan: “There can be no doubt that Jesus was a remarkably cheerful person and that his joy like his faith and hope was infectious… The poor and the oppressed and anyone else who was not too hung up on ‘respectability’ found the company of Jesus a liberating experience of sheer joy”.
Pope Francis points out that the whole Bible speaks of joy. Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Spirit” (Lk 10:21).
Conclusion: Empowering Presence
This experience of joy of the first Christians should inspire all of us to find great joy in our Christian life. Unfortunately, according to Pope Francis, “there are Christians whose lives seem like lent without Easter”. Some of them walk through life as though they are taking part in a perennial funeral procession. Kurien reminds us of Pope Francis who invites Christians everywhere “to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ”. For “with Christ joy is constantly born a new.”
The freedom and joy Kurien experienced and radiated make him an enabling, encouraging and empowering presence among us. He could accept and affirm everyone with their differences and unique qualities. It is because of persons like him that at Papal Seminary, we can experience freedom, joy and fellowship. Inspired by him, may we all become free and loving persons: enabling, encouraging and empowering other, by accepting and affirming each one of us. — Homily delivered by Kuruvilla Pandikattu SJ