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LIBERATION THEOLOGIAN JESUIT FATHER SEBASTIAN KAPPEN DIES IN BANGALORE

Updated: December 19, 1993 05:00 PM GMT
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Jesuit Father Sebastian Kappen, an expert on Marxism and supporter of liberation theology in India, died in the southern Indian city of Bangalore Nov. 30. He was 69.

Mourning the death, Reverend Gnana Robinson, principal of Protestant United Theological College in Bangalore, said Father Kappen was "an inspiration and challenge to the Indian Churches."

Tributes were paid by Church leaders, social activists and intellectuals Dec. 1, before his body was taken to neighboring Kerala state for funeral.

They described Father Kappen as an outstanding thinker and humanist, who opted in favor of the poor and devoted his life for their cause.

Father Kappen, who belonged to the Kerala Jesuit province, was influenced by Karl Marx´s philosophy during his doctoral studies on "Praxis and Religious Alienation According to Karl Marx" at the Gregorian university in Rome.

He claimed that of all philosophies, Marxism came closest to Christ´s perspective regarding the concept of man and history. He found insights he integrated with his own Christian faith and vision of the world.

After earning a doctorate, Father Kappen returned to India in 1962 and began teaching in various seminaries and speaking on Christianity, Marxism and social analysis to students and youths in different parts of the country.

He was also associated with student organizations such as the All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF) and the Protestant Student Christian Movement of India.

Father Kappen is credited with influencing the AICUF to promote social justice in its theology, faith and programs.

In the 1970s, his contact with activist groups and grassroots organizations prompted him to publish the periodical Anawim to introduce Christ to people.

Its aim was to "unveil the true image of Jesus and let Jesus appear in person before today´s world." He saw Christ as "the sure guide to an authentic existence and an inspiration" in the struggle for a new humanity.

Father Kappen also edited the now defunct quarterly, Negations, devoted to the study of culture and cultural preconditions for radical social change.

Besides eight books, he wrote regularly for publications in English and in Kerala´s Malayalam language, on culture, religion, ecology and communalism.

His books include "From Faith to Revolution," "A Sexual Morality for Tomorrow," "Jesus and Freedom," "Jesus and Cultural Revolution -- An Asian Perspective," "Marxian Atheism" and "The Future of Socialism and the Socialism of Future."

"Jesus and Freedom," his first book in English, published in 1977, became controversial in 1980 when the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith tried to censor "elements of a doctrinal nature that give cause for concern."

Father Kappen questioned the theology underlining the censorship and responded to his censor, "I have propounded nothing dangerous to the true interest of God and his reign, which is all that matters as far as I am concerned.

"If it poses a danger to vested interests in the Church and society, I cannot help it and I intend to tender no apology."

END

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