Saturday, January 16, 2021

Father Clooney discourses on inter-religious dialogue

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This renowned theologian claims understanding is the key, reports CHITRA SUDARSHAN

- Advertisement -

Those familiar with Comparative Theology – or even remotely aware of the Indian theological scholarship, will know Father Francis X Clooney S.J.  He is a Professor of Divinity and Comparative Theology and the Director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions at the Harvard Divinity School, having earned his doctorate in South Asian languages and civilizations.  His primary areas of scholarship are theological commentaries in the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions of Hinduism.  He has written numerous books and articles on comparative theology – especially involving Srivaishnava theological texts.  His book Beyond Compare: St Francis and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (Georgetown University Press, 2008) looks at the works of St Francis de Sales and the Srivaishnava theologian par excellence, Vedanta Desika, who has written a corpus of works in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Tamil. He has written other books and articles on Gandhi, the Bhagwad Gita, the Upanishads, Yoga Sutras and Srivaishnava texts.

Father Clooney was in Australia recently at the invitation of the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, where he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate.  Shortly before the ceremony hosted by the Centre for Inter-religious Studies, Father Clooney spoke about ‘Engaging the Inter-religious Possibilities of the Twenty first Century’ on July 25, at the Christ Lecture Theatre. The eclectic audience consisting of academics, religious scholars and practitioners, and lay people. He emphasised the need for inter-religious dialogue, the importance of the study of one’s own traditions as well as others’ which, he said, will sharpen and enhance the appreciation of the faith and tradition to which one belongs. Father Clooney is a Roman Catholic priest who understands deeply the faith traditions of India, and the wisdom contained in them.  His book Hindu Wisdom for All God’s Children is a testament to that belief, and it is a wonderful anthology of stories from Indian epics and Puranas for children all over the world.

Father Clooney cited the epochal Vatican II declaration that, he said, changed the way the Catholic Church viewed other faith traditions forever.  “A study of other faiths, far from undermining our beliefs in our inherited faith, will help us understand it better,” he stated.  “As long as one keeps an open mind – and is grounded in one’s faith at the same time – the search for truth can lead to the learning of wisdom from other traditions.”  He spoke about his own early experience as a young Jesuit scholar in Nepal, when his curiosity about Eastern religious traditions drew him towards a study of Hinduism. He began studying Sanskrit and the Vedanta; later, when he delved into the works of Nammalwar – the great Srivaishnava Tamil saint who wrote more than a thousand verses expressing his unconditional loving devotion to Lord Krishna – Father Clooney realised how similar they were to the Song of Songs in the Bible. It led him to write a comparative discourse on both the works.

Father Clooney has spent considerable time with other scholars of Srivaishnava theology, and still cooperates with them.

- Advertisement -

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s life

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Ep 6: The Indian LGBTQ+ community in 2020

  It’s been two years since the world’s largest democracy repealed the draconian Section 377 which used to allow discrimination against homosexual people. Only this...

Latest News

lilly singh

WATCH: Lilly Singh’s rivalry with her overachieving ‘cousin’, Kamala Harris

  "Growing up I always got compared to my Indian cousins," shares Lilly Singh, reminding us of those unforgettable sibling rivalries we've all experiences at...
Udaya wentworthville

Reopening after being a COVID exposure site

  "We did not have a clue, because the customer was asymtopmatic." Since the news of popular spots Saravanaa Bhavan and Udaya supermarket being COVID exposure...
meeting op nayyar (1)

Why OP Nayyar continues to be this fan’s favourite musician

  I am an ardent admirer of O P Nayyar’s music. Anyone who knows me well, knows of my love for Indian film music from...

5 powerful poems by the brilliant Javed Akhtar

  A celebrated lyricist and the recipient of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for his poetry, Javed Akhtar's name is synonymous with soul-wrenching, evocative writing.  His...
dog swami video

WATCH: Dog ‘blesses’ devotees outside temple in India

  In a now viral video, a dog stationed outside the Siddhivinayak Temple in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra was spotted shaking hands and 'blessing' devotees as they...