Indonesian prelate becomes a theology professor

Bishop Adrianus Sunarko of Pangkalpinang is still a lecturer at Jakarta's Driyarkara School of Philosophy
Indonesian prelate becomes a theology professor

Bishop Adrianus Sunarko of Pangkalpinang became a professor of theology on May 11. (Photo supplied by Trimur Yanto, OFM)

An Indonesian bishop has been made a professor of systematic theology during a ceremony in which he stressed the need for religions to maintain inclusivity and serve humanity.

Franciscan Bishop Adrianus Sunarko of Pangkalpinang, who heads the bishops’ theological commission, was made a professor by the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education on May 11 at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta.

In a speech during the ceremony, attended by professors from various universities, priests, nuns and lay Catholics, the bishop highlighted the role of religion in the post-secular era.

He said religious people are expected to be inclusive, respect each other and recognize human dignity and human rights.

He said it has been stipulated in Indonesia’s secular ideology — Pancasila, or the Five Principles that includes believing in one God, humanity, unity, democracy, and social justice.

"Indonesians must grateful for what the founding fathers have inherited through Pancasila, which stresses inclusivity in a plural society," he told

Theology has a significant role to play, particularly in combating religious fundamentalism, which rejects everything that is modern and only accepts literal interpretations of the Scriptures, the prelate said.

Theology, he said, should promote human rights, religious freedom and reject exclusivism.

"In Indonesia, religion is challenged to learn from local cultures and not to underestimate humanity," he said.

Bishop Sunarko is the eleventh professor at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy — which turned 50 this year — where he taught systematic dogmatic theology from 2003-2017 before being appointed a bishop by Pope Francis.

He is still a registered lecturer at the school, but does not have a fixed teaching schedule.

Bishop Sunarko has written 63 articles published in domestic and foreign journals and has co-authored numerous books.

In 2010 he co-authored a book “Secularization Dialectics” with Father Paul Budi Kleden, now the Divine Word superior-general. It was a response to the discourse between theologian Josep Ratzinger — Pope Benedict XVI — and German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas.

Father Andreas Atawolo, a lecturer at Driyarkara and a former student of Bishop Sunarko, said the prelate deserved his professorship.

"He has committed his life to the theological field, with high a dedication to teaching, writing and to the service of the Church and nation," he said.

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Born in Merauke, Papua on Dec. 7, 1966, from a Javanese family, Bishop Sunarko attended the minor seminary at Mertoyudan, in Central Java and was ordained a priest on July 8, 1995.

He studied theology at Albert-Ludwig University, Freiburg, Germany in 1996 and earned a doctorate.

He was appointed a bishop on June 28, 2017.

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