Dalit Christian from Tamil Nadu bags ‘Dr. James Massey Subaltern Studies Award’


By Robancy A Helen, India

Raphael Vellankanni, a research scholar of history at Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, received the “Dr. James Massey Subaltern Studies Award” for his book “The Church of the Poor: A Liberating Ecclesiology from Tamil Nadu Church from Evangelii Gaudium.”

Vellankanni hails from Chingleput in Tamil Nadu, south India, and is now the director of the I’m-Possible Holistic Development Centre (IHDC). He is a trainer, communicative English coach, and psychological counsellor. 

The award was conferred on him at the ISPCK office in Delhi on October 28, 2022. It consists of a citation and a cash award of 10,000 Indian rupees. 

The book provides a distinctive and original contribution to contextual theology from the perspective of the Tamil Nadu Church.

Mr. Raphael Vellankanni receives Dr. James Massey Subaltern Studies Award

It analyzes the key elements of the Scripture and the tradition-based nature and self-understanding of the Church, a legacy notably exemplified by the Second Vatican Council, and the ongoing shaping and influencing of contemporary ecclesiology up to Evangelii Gaudium, a 2013 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis.

The book reveals the extent of Evangelii Gaudium’s originality when confronting “the poor in the church and Evangelii Gaudium, and Dalit Christians in the Church of Tamil Nadu.”

The theological connection established in the book between Dalit Christians, the New Evangelization, ecumenical unity, and kingdom reality.

By developing an integral and liberating ecclesiology of “The Church of the Poor,” the author highlights a critical concern of Pope Francis, who strives for the Church to be “people-centered,” especially ‘the poor-centered,” liberating, a pro-life community of God’s people.

Though the work was a dissertation written for a post-graduate degree (Licentiate), it reads like a doctoral dissertation for the quality of the research, which is quite impressive, says Dr. Felix Wilfred, a retired professor at the University of Madras.

“The Rev. A. Lobban Indigenous Literature Award 2021” was conferred on Sr. Alice Chocko FMA for her book entitled “Come, Let us Journey Together into Our Common Home,” and “The Henry Devadas Christian Book Award 2021” was given to Dr. Y. Vincent Kumaradoss for his book entitled “Missionary Perspectives on the Formation of the Church in Nineteenth-Century Tirunelveli.”


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