Hundreds of people from various religions bid farewell to Fr Tissa Balasuriya, a controversial Sri Lankan theologian who passed away at the age of 89 after a long illness.
Known as Fr Bala, the Oblate of Mary
Immaculate passed away last Thursday.
His funeral was held on Saturday at Fatima
Church in Borella, a Colombo neighbourhood, with people from all sorts of
background, from civil society groups to ministers, Catholic priests to
After the service, the body was laid to rest in the church
Known for his commitment to interfaith dialogue, Fr Balasuriya found
himself in conflict with the Church over a book he published in 1990.
Titled Mary and Human Liberation, the work combines
ideas drawn from Latin American Marxist-inspired liberation theology with an
Asian vision of religious integration.
In 1994, Sri Lankan bishops issued a warning against the book.
year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) asked Father
Balasuriya to retract certain arguments he advanced in the book, a request he
Vatican criticism centred on some of his statements on doctrinal issues like
original sin, the Immaculate Conception, and the irreplaceable role of Jesus in
the work of salvation.
When the CDF asked the Sri Lankan theologian to sign a statement of
faith, again he declined.
In view of his refusal, the Congregation formally announced his
excommunication in January 1997.
Father Balasuriya eventually agreed to sign a
statement of faith, and his excommunication was lifted in January 1998.
"Let us bury only the bones and the flesh of Fr Balasuriya," said Mgr Norbert
Andradi, Oblate of Mary Immaculate and Bishop of Anuradhapura, "but let us also
keep his words and deeds with us".