Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fr Tissa Balasuriya, controversial Sri Lankan theologian, laid to rest

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 Buddhist monks. 

After the service, the body was laid to rest in the church cemetery.

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. 
That same 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 declined.

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".

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