BY PIERS MCGRANDLE
THE CONFERENCE of Religious in England and Wales, which represents more 10,000 religious men and women, has written a letter to the Vatican demanding the reinstatement of Sri Lankan theologian Fr Tissa Balasuriya.
At their annual conference held last week in Derbyshire, General Secretary Sr Gabriel Robin said: "We believe that it's vital for the Church to make the message relevant to the people with whom we're working. We must have a proper process for discussing and evaluating the views of theologians like Fr Tissa a process which is sadly lacking at present."
This support for the theologian from the Conference of Religious follows increasing concern throughout the world at the treatment of Fr Balasuriya by the Vatican.The Sri Lankan priest was excommunicated following the publication of a book Mary and Human Liberation.
In the official letter, addressed to the conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, they claim that the priest "maintains that what he has wanted to say has been misrepresented and distorted".
They continue by asking him to "revoke such an extraordinary and final condemnation" on a man "who has been a faithful servant of the Church throughout his religious life, and out of consideration for his age".
However, in Sri Lanka, a booklet was printed this week presenting the "other side" of the controversy involving the Oblate Fr Tissa Balasuriya. The booklet claimed that the priest was treated fairly by Sri Lanka's bishops in the run-up to his excommunication.
The booklet, which is compiled from interviews with leading members of the bishops' conference, is compiled from collective statements and is not attributed to individuals.
The bishops point to what they describe as four glaring errors downplaying church tradition; minimizing the validity of faith; presenting original sin in a way that casts doubts both on the divinity of Christ and Mary's role in salvation history; and implying that religion's role is to aid human liberation.