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Adieu Father Dominic Veliath, A Gentle Genius, Friendly Formator and Pragmatic Professor

By Father Jude Pooppana SDB
February 25, 1942 - November 27, 2021
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Bangalore, Nov. 28. Father Dominic Veliath SDB, aged 79, passed away on November 27, 2021. He had multiple health issues for a few months and was in palliative care. The funeral rites will be at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore, on Monday, November 29, 2021, at 10.30 am.
Father Jude Pooppana SDB, a former student of Father Dominic, writes:

Father Dr Dominic Veliath SDB was marked with achievements that are bound to influence generations of people. As his former student and collaborator, I consider it an enormous privilege to write these lines to pay homage to him, a theologian, scholar, teacher, mentor, formator, and most importantly, a dear friend.

He was a symbol of our pride, self-respect, and all that we hoped to achieve in life; a fact conceded by his numerous students and colleagues, as well as by all knowledgeable and scholarly circles with which he had interacted.

Dominic Veliath was born on February 25, 1942, to Dr George Veliath and his wife, Mrs Dharma Veliath. Dominic has five siblings, all of the brothers, and apart from Dominic, one brother is a religious priest in the Society of Jesus. The other four followed their father by embracing his very profession of being medical doctors.

Educated at St. Kevin's School, Royapuram - Chennai (Primary School), St. Mary's High School, George Town Chennai, and St. Aloysius High School, Mangalore - (High School), Loyola College Madras - (Pre-University), the young Dominic entered the Salesian Aspirantate of the Congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco at Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu in June 1959.

Dominic completed his novitiate at The Retreat, Yercaud Tamil Nadu, and made his first profession on May 24, 1962, also at Yercaud. He then did one year of his philosophical studies at the Retreat, Yercaud, after which he was sent to Rome to complete those studies. He obtained his Baccalaureate and Licentiate in Philosophy from the Pontifical Salesian University, Rome, and pursued further his philosophical studies, crowning them with a doctorate in Philosophy from the same University, on the theme: The Scotism of William of Alnwick in His Determinationes De Anima.

Dominic completed his theological studies (B.Th.) at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune and was ordained a priest on October 31, 1973, by Msgr. Selvanather, Archbishop of Pondicherry. After completing his M.Th. from the same Pontifical Athenaeum, Pune, in 1975, he began his teaching career at Kristu Jyoti College in the same year. He was subsequently sent to Rome and obtained his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, in 1985 on the theme: Theological Approach and Understanding of Religions. Jean Dani�lou and Raimundo Panikkar: A Study in Contrast. He returned to India in 1985. Since then, he has taught theology at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore, where he was subsequently appointed Principal for three terms and Rector for two terms.

Father Dominic was a multi-faceted personality, the lustre of which reflected in his lifestyle, values and convictions. In him, there was a rare blend of qualities and achievements, wisdom and compassion, which made his life a source of inspiration for all his friends. He was deeply dedicated to the cause of the Church and of the Congregation. As Professor, Rector and Principal of the Kristu Jyoti College, he had been keenly interested in the adequate formation of the seminarians. And his theological endeavour was a testimony to his solid roots in Christ with openness to the actual world in dialogue with other cultures and religions. He made every effort to contextualize theological training and priestly formation to make it relevant and meaningful.

Though Father Dominic had been closely associated and almost identified with Kristu Jyoti College and spent most of his life there as a teacher, his life and work bear testimony to his Christian and theological horizons that transcend the above institution to national and international fame. Among the impressive credentials he had in this regard, I limit myself to mentioning only a few. He was appointed by His Holiness the late Pope John Paul II as a member of the International Theological Commission for five years (2004-2008) and reappointed by Pope Benedict XVI for another five years (2009-2014). Appointed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India as the Indian Theologian Representative to the Office of Theological Concerns of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), he had rendered committed service as its member. He was the Executive Secretary of the Doctrinal Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. Furthermore, Father Dominic was a member of the Indian Theological Association for many years and had served as its President for a term.

In the minds of most of the people who have known Father Dominic, he is one of the foremost stalwarts of Kristu Jyoti Theological College, who began his teaching career almost from its earliest days. He started on that road in 1975 when he accepted the post of the academic dean of Kristu Jyoti College. His achievement was seen not only in the growth of the institution but also in what the institution has come to symbolize through its social involvement on behalf of the poor and the marginalized. Pioneering in the way he had done, Father Dominic was able to avoid extremes and chart a middle course without jettisoning the central theological affirmations that the faith upholds. It was during his years as the Principal, Kristu Jyoti College was aggregated to the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

Alert to the promptings of the Spirit, Father Dominic lived his theology. His students found in him someone generous with his time, understanding and, importantly, on their side, his generous support was as much appreciated as his generous marking. Many find in Father Dominic a strong advocate, and his friendship, sparkling with theological incision was appreciated by all who were privileged to know him.

Among Father Dominic's accomplishments in theology have been his publications. In this area of notable contributions made to the Church, he has volumes, edited works, scholarly articles and seminar presentations to his credit. One of these is now a textbook in the seminaries in India.

Fater Dominic was also known for his retreat preaching and the spiritual animation of the clergy of different dioceses in India. He had crisscrossed the length and breadth of India, animating the clergy. In this way, too, he had exerted a great deal of influence on the Church in India. While his success in this area of preaching and retreat direction can be attributed to a great extent to the insights of a creative theologian, his capacity to articulate them with utmost clarity, his in-depth knowledge of the doctrinal system and his faith in it, was primarily due to his deep rootedness in the person of Christ and trusting surrender to God.

Yet another striking characteristic trait of Father Dominic, the theologian, was his loyalty to the Magisterium. Giving absolutely no room for suspicion, in all his courses and lectures, Father Dominic had not only made serious efforts to consider the teaching of the Magisterium but also has remained an ever faithful and loyal servant to its teaching. By so doing, he had proved himself to be a man of great theological stature and not a victim of his genius.

The greatest legacy Father Dominic had achieved can be found in the impact of his teaching upon hundreds of men and women. His love for the classroom and his mastery of the art of exciting theological students to excel will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of two or three generations of scholars, pastors, and missionaries who represent a community that is truly worldwide in extent. The greatness of Father Dominic as a teacher of theology consisted in his ability to accompany his students in their endeavour to seek wisdom. It has been an accompaniment born out of great sensitivity and genuine humanism. Moreover, he had an exceptional brilliance and aptitude to explain the most abstruse and profound topics to his students with ease and clarity that even the novices without any theological and philosophical background could easily understand.

The mark of the man, however, is not in his achievements. Although he had written books and articles and enthusiastically communicated lessons to his students, he will be remembered most by those who know him for the authenticity of life he lived, prayers uttered, the human person that he was and, above all, for his rootedness in God. Rest in God whom you promoted, preached and prayed!
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