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Eminent Indian theologian dies at 92

An eminent Indian theologian who promoted reading and reflecting the Bible in a context on February 27 died. He was 92.
Father Joseph Pathrapamkal, CMI. (Photo: Supplied)

An eminent Indian theologian who promoted reading and reflecting the Bible in a context on February 27 died. He was 92.

“Father Joseph Pathrapamkal was an eminent scholar, an enlightening teacher, a learned exponent, and a discerning interpreter,” said Father Jaison Mulerikkal in a eulogy. “He was also an impressive writer, a well-read theologian, a tireless seeker, and an effective preacher of the Word of God.”

He was ailing for some time and died of old-age-related sickness. The funeral will be held on March 1 in Kerala.

He was born in Elamgulam parish of Kanjirappally diocese in Kerala on Sept 29, 1930, and was ordained a priest on March 3, 1958.

Father Pathrapamkal was a member of a Carmelite of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the first Catholic indigenous congregation in 1831 founded by Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, an educationalist and social reformer of the nineteenth century in the southern Indian state of India.

The priest had taught thousands of students and others how to read the Bible.

Reading the Bible in a context enables people to be free from the shackles of egotism and partisan interests, having a broad perspective into the universality of all God’s people, peoples, and cultures. 

He firmly believed that the Word of God would serve as a powerful catalyst and an all-permeating leaven irresistibly leading people into the Kingdom of God.

Father Pathrapamkal is hailed as one of the few Indian biblical scholars who have outstandingly succeeded in inculturating the Word of God.

His approach was to facilitate reading the Bible vis-à-vis India's age-old religious heritage and contemporary social realities. It could be personified as the object of faith with practice in action, explained Father Mulerikkal, a CMI priest.

He also showed his prophetic ability to situate the Biblical text into the context of people. And this is what had made Father Pathrapamkal, a seer of God's word and an exponent of the text in the context of India, said Mulerikkal.

He had always insisted on the importance of remaining Christians who are not only to be taught by the word of God but also who have learned from it the all-too-important lessons of interior enlightenment, universal love, and other-centered action.

He was also inspired to respect and value other religions express solidarity with all peoples and cultures.

“His writings, perceptive and persuasive, purposive and practical, are being widely read in India and abroad, by scholars and common people alike,” said Mulerikkal.

Greatly acknowledged and honored for his scholarship, he served in various capacities in many biblical associations in India, including the Biblical Commission, Rome.

He also rendered outstanding service as a member of Theological Publications, India. He founded the well-known Anugraha (grace) Retreat Centre, Vazhoor, Kanjirapilly, Kerala.

Father Pathrapamkal had been an active, well-appreciated presence in the CMI Renewal Programmes, animating them with his deep biblical insights and theological inputs.

To top it all, his long and splendid services as the president of Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (DVK, garden of virtues knowledge temple), a Pontifical Athenaeum for philosophy, theology, and Canon Law, in Bangalore, southern India, as the professor of the Holy Scripture and at Union Theological College, Bangalore.

His service will ever be remembered with immense gratitude, appreciation, and affection by the entire CMI Congregation as well as his colleagues and students, said Mulerikkal.


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