An Intellectual Giant Passes into History

Archbishop Angelo Fernandes


I first met the then Fr. Paul Varghese at Tambaram, Madras, in 1968 when AIACHE (All India Association for Christian Higher Education) was founded. I witnessed his quick grasp of the significance of the new challenge and his openness and expectant faith to march into the unknown future to which the Lord was inviting us.

A few years later, in February 1970 at Delhi, we were associated in the All India Christian Consultation of Development, inaugurated by President V. V. Giri. In his choice remarks at the opening session, Fr. Varghese revealed his original and creative mind. To make a more significant contribution to development in our times, he called for "de - institutionalising' and "de-individualising' of our Christian schools, hospitals and institutions for the handicapped.

With a big broad sweep he included in this, orientation programmes for youth, women, laymen and the parish activities of the Churches. He called for full participation and understanding in what is going on in the country and of relating it to our Christian obedience. That was a recurring decimal with him to bring everything into creative confrontation with the Word of God. On that same occasion, he confessed that he had a penchant for intellectual clarification. In the interests of true development he subjected to scrutiny both the concept "secular' and Nehru'"socialistic pattern of society.' He went on to ask the still burning and crucial question, as to whether "the little economic amelioration with we have achieved in our country has really touched the tissue of our people.' The question is very relevant for our ChristianChurches today as they struggle towards building communion and solidarity in the context of globalisation.

By the same token, Dr. Varghese was always critical of the ""soft, bourgeoisie, comfort - seeking'' products of today's colleges and universities who do not bear comparison, he said, with the toughness ofpeople of the previous generation. It was therefore his contention that it is in this area of Gospel"Values' that ChristianChurches have to render their greatest single service to the country.

Dr. Gregorios and I met on many occasions. When the Syrian Orthodox Church invited His Holiness Patriarch Pimen of Moscow to India, Bishop Gregorios asked me to join him in according a fitting ecumenical reception to the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. I gladly obliged.

Conversant with current trends of thought in all the major endeavours of life, his expertise in Scripture, theology and the social sciences was seen to full advantage in the beautiful, elaborate Prayer for Peace which he addressed to the Lord of the Universe at the concluding session of the Second World conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) at Louvain, Belgium in 1974. Even more so did this come through in the deep, challenging Keynote Address he delivered at the First International Ecumenical Assembly of Associations of Christian Colleges and Universities on the theme: "Preparing Humankind for the New Millennium through Ecumenical Partnership in Higher Education.'

Together at its launching in 1968, we were once again united in January 1995 in giving AIACHE a fillip anda fresh elan as it goes into the future to prosper "Global Learning' at the dawn of the third millennium.

Hopefully some at least of our Christian University World will emulate Dr. Gregorios in bringing the light of Christ into the halls of learning and their outreach to our suffering people. Thefuture beckons to disciples of the Master to give a soul to society, to rise beyond the influences of today's society, to nurture the spirit and strive to bring it to bear on the conduct of human affairs in the country and in our only One Earth.

(Courtsey: AIACHE News Letter, Vol. XXXI, No. 1, February 1997)

Archbishop Angelo Fernandes: Late Archbishop Emeritus of Delhi.