Letter: Women support expelled priest

Women support expelled priest

Sir: I was interested to see the piece about Tissa Balasuriya's excommunication ("How Rome dealt with a turbulent priest", 7 January).

I was with Fr Balasuriya in December at the fourth general assembly of The Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (Eatwot) in the Philippines. Fr Balasuriya was a founder member of Eatwot and it was with some shock that 93 participants from 33 countries, mainly in the Third World, heard of his possible excommunication.

It was clear that one of the main reasons was his refusal to sign a profession of faith which included the words: "I firmly accept and hold that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women."

The women members issued a statement that "as women theologians from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the minorities from the US, we deeply appreciate this strong gesture of solidarity with women coming from a male theologian".

The whole conference was later invited to sign a resolution affirming support for Fr Balasuriya and appealing to his superiors and the Pope to give him a fair hearing and stop all proceedings excommunicating him.

Many, like me, involved in the struggle to ordain women in the Church of England have studied Fr Balasuriya's writings and valued his thinking. As a Welsh woman celebrating with my sisters in Wales their ordination to the priesthood this weekend, I find it ironical that while one part of the Church is being more inclusive, another is finding it necessary to censure so harshly an inspiring theologian and priest with a long history of struggling for justice and peace.

BRIDGET REES

Theology Adviser to Christian Aid

Malvern, Worcestershire

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