Indian Jesuits downplay reports of Vatican censure

New Delhi - The Jesuit Provincial of South Asia, Father Edward Mudavassery, has shrugged off widespread reports that the Vatican has launched an investigation into the writings of Fr Michael Amaladoss, a prominent Indian Jesuit theologian.

"As far as I know there is no investigation, and he has not been barred from writing and teaching," Fr Mudavassery told on Tuesday.

He added that the Vatican's Congregation of Doctrine of Faith (CDF) invited Fr Amaladoss to Rome in the first week of April for a "dialogue" on evangelization, but insisted that the conversations with CDF officials took place in a "friendly manner".

Fr Amaladoss, 77, known globally for his teachings on culture and inter-religious dialogue in Asia, is said to be currently in Europe on a personal visit and could not be contacted for details.

The theologian, who belongs to the Madurai province of Jesuits, worked in Rome from 1983 to 1995 as a general assistant to the Jesuit Superior of the time, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, with special responsibilities for questions of evangelization, inculturation and inter-religious dialogue.

A senior official of the Madurai province, who asked not to be named, confirmed to that correspondence between the CDF and Fr Amaladoss "has been going on for some time, at least two to three years now".

The issues being discussed do not relate to "any particular book of his but how to proclaim Jesus to an Asian audience", said the official.

Since the Second Vatican Council, Asian theologians – particularly Indians – have worked to interpret the Bible and liturgy in terms of Eastern philosophies and culture, in order to help Asians understand it.

It has not been unknown for some of these theologians to come under Vatican investigation, followed by reprimands and even excommunication for expressing unorthodox views.

Prominent among them was Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya, who was excommunicated in 1997 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, headed the CDF. It was lifted a year later after Balasuriya signed a profession of faith. He died last year, aged 89.