Cyriac Pullapilly was born in South India. He was ordained in 1948, and completed his undergraduate studies at the St. Joseph Apostolic seminary, which at its time, was the second-largest seminary in the world. While attending the seminary, he wrote for a missionary publication called Home Field. He also was part of the anti-communist movement in his college and wrote various publications critical of the communist government which controlled the legislature in his state.
In 1975, he founded the Semester Around the World Program, where University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College, Indiana, students travelled the world and studied in India.
He has a multi-disciplinary approach to his studies and has published works on a broad range of subjects. His research has been supported by the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 2006 – the year in which he was admitted to the Royal Society of Arts – he held a visiting academic post at the University of Cambridge. He has also established his own publishing company and produced an "inclusive-language" edition of the New Testament.
Based upon his founding of the Semester Around the World program, Pullapilly received the Spes Unica Award from Saint Mary's College for his outstanding service to the College in 2007.
Pullapilly studied at St Thomas College in India and then at the University of Chicago, where he earned his PhD. He and his wife are both Indian immigrants to the United States, raising their children in South Bend, Indiana. Pullapilly is the father of filmmaker Gita Pullapilly. 
An only child, Pullapilly's parents were initially reluctant to let him become a priest. Around 1960, he expressed interest in missionary work but said that he did not have the time.
- Caesar Baronius, Counter-Reformation historian. University of Notre Dame Press. 1975. ISBN 9780268005016.
- Smith, Bardwell L., ed. (1976). "The Izhavas of Kerala and their Historic Struggle for Acceptance in the Hindu Society". Religion and Social Conflict in South Asia. BRILL. ISBN 9789004045101.
- Islam in the Contemporary World. Cross Cultural Publications/Crossroads. 1980. ISBN 9780940121003.
- East and West in the Renaissance: Essays in Cultural Interaction. Cross Cultural Publications. 2000. ISBN 9780940121461.
- Christianity and Native Cultures: Perspectives from Different Regions of the World. Cross Cultural Publications. 2004. ISBN 9780940121775.
- "The Izhavas of Kerala". Journal of Asian and African Studies. XI. 1976.
- "Agostino Valier and the Conceptual Basis of the Catholic Reformation". Harvard Theological Review. 85 (3): 307–333. July 1992. doi:10.1017/S0017816000003333.
- "Priest from India views East, West". Suburbanite Economist. August 3, 1960. p. 15. Retrieved 2016-10-05. (Subscription required (. ))
- Abeel, Kim (October 9, 2006). "Queen to honor educator: Royal Society of Arts to induct SMC prof". Notre Dame, IN: The Observer.
- Lach, Donald Frederick; Van Kley, Edwin J. (1998). Asia in the Making of Europe: East Asia. University of Chicago Press. p. xxxv. ISBN 978-0-22646-765-8.
- "Awards" (PDF). Courier. St. Mary's College. 82 (2): 40. Summer 2007.
- "Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet". The New York Times. November 1, 2009. p. ST14.
- St Mary's College Official Bulletin (PDF). S Mary's College. 2012. p. 305.