Fr. Joseph Neuner, S.J., veteran Indologist, theologian and spiritual advisor to Mother Teresa, celebrated his 101st birthday at Sanjeevan Ashram, headquarters of the Pune Jesuit province, here on Wednesday.
Fr Neuner, born on August 19, 1908 at Feldkirch in Austria, has been a Puneite since 1938. As professor of theology at Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth, he has taught thousands of priests, some of whom rose to be bishops and cardinals.The centurion was in a cheerful mood, receiving greetings from people when this Sakaal Times reporter called on him on Wednesday. The priest was greeted by his fellow Jesuits and others on his 101st birthday.
"Fr Neuner did not want a big celebration and so we did not invite many people for the birthday,”said Fr Anil Soares, one of the priests residing at the Jesuit provincialate. Although his movement and activities have now been restricted,
Fr Neuner still follows the community routine at the Jesuit house. He has meals and tea along with other Jesuits.Refusing to be assisted, he comes to the dining hall with the support of a walker. He converses with others on the latest happenings although in the recent past, he has been hard on hearing. “But he never misses his exercise of walking in the passage with the walker,” adds Fr Soares. Neuner, who for a few years, stayed on the first floor of ‘Sanjeevan Ashram’ was shifted to the ground floor when he neared his century.
Before his arrival in India, Neuner had completed a doctorate thesis at Rome-based Gregorian University on the theme, ‘The idea of sacrifice in the Bhagvadgita’. During World War II, Neuner along with other German nationals in the country, was detained by the British government and was incarcerated for over five years, initially in Ahmednagar and later at Dehradun.Neuner served as an expert at the Vatican Council II, which is said to have ushered in reforms in the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church had appointed Neuner as censor theoloigicus in 1999 for the proceeding launched for beatification of Mother Teresa. His job was to study the nun’s published writings to find if they contained any heresy.The Mother was declared a Blessed, a step towards sainthood, a few years later.