D. S. Amalorpavadass

D. S. Amalorpavadass
Born June 15, 1932(1932-06-15)
Kallery, Pondicherry
Died May 25, 1990(1990-05-25)
Mysore, Karnataka
Nationality Indian
Occupation Theologian
Ordained 12 April 1959
Writings Destiny of the Church in India today
Congregations served Archdiocese of Pondicherry & Cuddalore
Offices held Pastor in Viriyur
Title Reverend Doctor

Duraiswami Simon Amalorpavadass (15 June 1932 – 25 May 1990) was a third-world theologian who played a vital role in the renewal of life and mission of the Roman Catholic Church in India, particularly after Vatican II. He was fluent in French, English and Tamil.

Father Bevans, in a paper presented to celebrate 30 years of Evangelii Nuntiandi, writes that Amalorpavadass was one of the two special secretaries on the Synod of Bishops for 1974 convened by Pope Paul VI which took up the theme "Evangelization in the Modern World" who proposed an interpretation that took into account many of the important movements in Asia and other parts of the Third World. His ideas revolved around a greater role for the local church and the emergence of the theology of liberation.

Amalorpavadass was a member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians[1] (EATWOT).[2]


Early years

Amalorpavadass was born in Kallery, a village near Pondicherry in the (Tamil Nadu) region of southern India[1] on June 15, 1932[3]

He had been an alma mater of St Anne's High School, Tindivanam and St. Joseph's Higher Secondary School, Cuddalore.[3]

Seminary studies and ordination

Amalorpavadass studied at the St Agnes Minor Seminary in Cuddalore and later graduated from St Joseph's College in Tiruchirapalli[3]

In 1953 Amalorpavadass joined the St Peter's Major Seminary(established in 1778 and affiliated to the Pontifical Urban University of Rome[4]) in Malleswaram, Bangalore.

After his completion of theological studies in Bangalore he was ordained on 12 April 1959[3] as a priest of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore.[5]

The Regional Catechetical Centre of the archdiocese later took him off its staff in order to develop and co-ordinate its programmes.[3]

Post-graduate studies and research

In 1962 Amalorpavadass went to Paris in France and enrolled as a student at the Catholic University of Paris (Institut Catholique de Paris) to pursue a degree in catechetics.[3]

Continuing his stay in Paris he enrolled as a candidate at the same institute to pursue a Doctorate of Theology degree. His doctoral dissertation was entitled Destiny of the Church in India today.[3]

After completing his masters and doctorate studies he returned to India, in 1966, and was assigned a parish role in Viriyur[3] in order to gain pastoral experience.

National Biblical, Catechetical, and Liturgical Centre

Amalorpavadass founded the National Biblical, Catechetical, and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC),[3] Hutchins Road, Bangalore in October 1966.[6] He was the Director from its inception in 1966 till 1985.

He initiated scholarly discussions and invited the learned scholars of India including Victor Premasagar and K. David the then members of faculty of the ecumenical Andhra Christian Theological College in Hyderabad.

Word and Worship

The NBCLC journal "Word and Worship" was started during the period of Father Amalalorpavadass.

Initiatives at the University of Mysore

Chair of Christianity

The University of Mysore, the first university in Karnataka (established in 1916 by the Maharaja of Mysore, N. Krishna Wodeyar) instituted a Chair in Christianity with substantial endowment from the Catholic Diocese of Mysore in 1979.[7] Amalorpavadass was Visiting Professor in the Chair.[8]

Department of Christianity

Later, in 1980, a Department of Christian Studies (the first of its kind in India) was established by Amalorpavadass for promoting advanced studies and research in Christianity in the secular, multi-religious, interdisciplinary and pluralistic context of India in order to promote Christianity as an academic and scientific discipline[7] Amalorpavadass headed the Department for a while.

Anjali Ashram

While Amalorpavadass was in Mysore, he founded a Christian ashram and named it "Anjali Ashram"[9] and served as an Acharya-Guru for many seekers till his death in 1990.[1]

The name "Anjali" was adopted to illustrate the hospitality and love with which everyone was received in the ashram.[10]

In the first week of every month, the ashram offers Atma Purna Anubhava - introduction to Indian Christian spirituality.


  • Stephen Bevans, a Divine Word Priest:
.....attempted to propose an interpretation that took into account many of the important movements in Asia and other parts of the Third World. His ideas revolved around a greater role for the local church and the emergence of the theology of liberation.
  • John Prior, a British missiologist:
.....Amalorpavadass authored “a coherent, comprehensive, contextual theology of mission, drawing in both the bold new ventures of the majority and the questions of the cautionary minority,” but his contributions, for all practical purposes, were ignored by the persons responsible for the official draft that was to come before the bishops in the synod’s final days. Amalorpavadass, when he realized this, had his own version duplicated and distributed among the bishops, who, when comparing it to the official draft, refused to approve it when it came to the final vote. It was four days before the closing of the Synod, and there was no time to write and then discuss another draft. It was then, as Cardinal Moreira Neves recalls, that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla suggested that “the Synod’s recommendations be entrusted to the Pope so that he could transform them into the Synod’s final document.” The result, of course, was Evangelii Nuntiandi.

Prior points out that Paul VI’s document actually incorporated much of what was in Amalorpavadass’ draft, and so it is a document that is much broader in scope than the document rejected by the bishops at the Synod.

  • Joshua Russel Chandran,[11] Past Principal, United Theological College, Millers Road, Bangalore:
.....In the untimely death of Fr. Amalorvapadass, on 25 May 1990, following a car accident, not only the Church in India but the whole ecumenical world has suffered an irreparable loss. Fr. Amalor, as we used to call him, was a devout Catholic priest, an outstanding scholar and theologian, a committed missionary and evangelist and a warmhearted friend. Many throughout the world mourn his loss, and at the same time praise and thank God for the life and ministry of this great servant of God.
  • Catherine Cornille, Associate Professor (Theology Department), Boston College, North America:[10]
.....Amalorpavadass believed that theoretical study ought to be coupled with and supported by a genuine Christian community life, lived in an Indian tradition, context and atmosphere, following an Indian life-style.
  • Matthew N. Schmalz, Associate Professor, College of the Holy Cross, North America:
.....the Indian Theologian D. S. Amalorpavadass had the most decisive influence on the inculturation movement. Empowered by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a variety of indults ad experimentum, Amalorpavadass envisioned an experimental Indian rite mass that would supplant the imported Roman or Latin rite. Though not approving Amalorpavadass's most radical reforms, the Vatican issued "12 Points of Adaptation," which allowed a variety of accommodations to Indian culture in the Latin rite mass: Priests dressed in ochre robes characteristic of renunciants, and the Bible and the Eucharist were honored through offerings of flowers and incense. Amalorpavadass envisioned these adaptations as bridging the gap between Catholic and Indian identities. Moreover, such adaptations were designed to embrace Indian culture and nationhood. Amalorpavadass and many Indian bishops hoped that Catholicism would no longer be seen as foreign but as very much a part of the Indian nation.


  • Michael T. Buchanan,[13] Australian Catholic University:
.....In the early 1970s Religious educators in Australia were strongly influenced by the Indian Jesuit and theologian Amalorpavadass. He visited Australia in 1973, and his understanding of revelation was a major influence in developing a life-centered pedagogical approach to religious education. He argued that,

Revelation calls for faith. Faith is a personal and living encounter with the living God, a total acceptance of the revealing and giving person by a loving surrender of one's life according to His word. All this should result in the sealing of a covenant and the realization of a fellowship in love. Therefore our inter-personal relationship is one of dialogue, covenant and fellowship. Therefore man's response or reaction to God's revelation will be essentially attention and responsibility, expectation and listening, openness and acceptance, and reciprocal self-gift in a total surrender and dedication of oneself. This is what we call faith

It may be concluded that Amalorpavadass wanted to highlight the Indian ethos and indigenize worship forms rather than force alien forms of worship.

In India, similar attempts have been made by Eric J. Lott and other pioneers.

B. V. Subbamma of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church initiated Christian Ashrams and adopted indigenous forms like burra katha to spread the gospel that was met with success.[14]

Sampathkumar who earlier served in the NBCLC, Bangalore points out[15] that Indian Sanyasis like Sadhu Sundar Singh and M. Devadas of the Bible Mission, Guntur developed indigenous methods of worship and could attract many towards Christ.

Richard Leroy Hivner, Jr. in his thesis "Exploring the Depths of the Mystery of Christ: The Life and Work of K. Subba Rao of Andhra Pradesh, South India with Special Reference to his Songs" submitted to the University of South Africa in March 2004 attempts to bring out the Gospel movement that K. Subba Rao (1912–1981), a Hindu disciple of Christ, brought about around Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh[16] using the neo-Vedanta philosophy of Swami Vivekananda.


There was resistance to the experimental deeds of Amalorpavadass towards inculturation of Catholicism into the Indian context. Matthew N. Schmalz points out that many Indian Catholics resisted inculturation.[12] South Indian Catholics took Amalorpavadass to court to stop the experimentation since they believed that these adaptations threatened their own distinctive identity. Further, majority of North Indian Catholics who were Dalits felt that the inculturation methods were Brahmanical.[12]


Amalorpavadass had written and edited numerous volumes. A few of them are:

  • Approach, Meaning, and Horizon of Evangelization, NBCLC, Bangalore, 1973[17]
  • Gospel and Culture: Evangelisation and Inculturation, NBCLC, Bangalore, 1978[18]
  • NBCLC Campus: Milieu of God-Experience. An Artistic Synthesis of Spirituality, NBCLC, Bangalore, 1982[19]
  • Poverty of the Religious and the Religious as Poor, NBCLC, Bangalore, 1984
  • Integration and Interiorization (1990)

In 1990, Gerwin van Leeuwen brought out a book entitled:

  • Fully Indian - authentically Christian: A study of the first fifteen years of the NBCLC (1967–1982), Bangalore, 1990.[20]
  • Two memorial volumes came out in 1991:
    • J. Russel Chandran (ed.), Third World Theologies in Dialogue: Essays in Memory of D. S. Amalorpavadass, EATWOT, Bangalore, 1991.[21]
    • Paul Puthanangady ed., Church in India: Institution or Movement ? (1991)


Amalorpavadass had been active in many international organizations.

  • Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT),
  • International Commission for English in the liturgy,
  • World Catholic Federation for the Biblical Apostolate,
  • International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS)
  • Secretary, Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Commissions of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI).

He was one of the two special secretaries for the roman episcopal synod on evangelisation in 1974.


Amalorpavadass died in an automobile accident on his way to Bangalore from Mysore.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Michael Amaladoss in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Anderson, Gerald H. (Ed.), William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1998, ISBN 0802846807, pp.15-16 [1]
  2. ^ EATWOT was formed in 1976
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Amalorananda, Swamy, Atma Purna Anubhava (within Ashram Anubhava - Experience of Indian Christian Spirituality), Anjali Ashram, Mysore, 2000. Introduction to the author.
  4. ^ History of St. Peter's Seminary
  5. ^ Archdiocese of Pondicherry & Cuddalore. Internet, accessed 28 May 2008 [2]
  6. ^ The National Biblical, Catechetical, and Liturgical Centre
  7. ^ a b Thomas, Joy, Mission in the Context of Universities, a tabled paper sent to the International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS) Conference in 2004 held in Port Dickson, Malaysia.[3]
  8. ^ The Chair of Christianity had been vacant since the death of Amalorpavadass in 1990. The Chair has since been revived vide circular of 2002 issued by the Diocese of Mysore. The University of Mysore selected Joy Thomas to the Chair.
  9. ^ Official site of Anjali Ashram, Chamundi Hill Road, Mysore 570 011, Karnataka [4]
  10. ^ a b Cornille, Catherine, The Guru in Indian Catholicism: Ambiguity of Inculturation?, Louvain Theological and Pastoral Monographs, Peeters Press, Louvain, 1990, pp. 144-144 [5]
  11. ^ J. Russel Chandran in Network for Strategic Missions, commenting about the death of D. S. Amalorpavadass, January 1, 1991, Volume 8:1, pp. 104-106.[6]
  12. ^ a b c Schmalz, Matthew N. in the Indian Church: Catholicism and Indian Nationhood in Paul Christopher Manuel, Lawrence C. Reardon (Eds.), The Catholic Church and the Nation-State: Comparative Perspectives, Georgetown University Press, Washington, 2006, ISBN 9781589011151 [7]
  13. ^ Michael T. Buchanan, Pedagogical drift: The evolution of new approaches and paradigms in religious education, Australian Catholic University, 2005 [8]
  14. ^ Frank L. Roy, A Caste Hindu Tells Her Story, Mission Frontiers, The Bulletin of the U.S. Centre for World Mission, November–December 1997
  15. ^ Word and Worship, NBCLC Journal, Bangalore, March 2008
  16. ^ Richard Leroy Hivner, Jr., "Exploring the Depths of the Mystery of Christ: The Life and Work of K. Subba Rao of Andhra Pradesh, South India with Special Reference to his Songs", Thesis submitted to the University of South Africa in March 2004 in partial fulfillment for the degree of Master of Arts [9]
  17. ^ 403 Forbidden
  18. ^ FABC Papers No
  19. ^ Chaos 44. ISBN 9788763504492. http://books.google.com/?id=0WjB4EQ8TeEC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=amalorpavadass+NBCLC+Campus,+Milieu+of+God-Experience+. 
  20. ^ A full biography of Amalorpavadass and his renewal movement can be found in Fully Indian - authentically Christian by Gerwin van Leeuwen.[10]
  21. ^ Quoted in Kirsteen cKim's article in Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge
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