After Alappuzha diocese buries ashes of COVID victims, Kerala churches relax funeral norms

After Latin Catholic diocese buries ashes of COVID victims, churches across Kerala relax funeral norms
The body of Thressiamma (Achamma - 62), the wife of Sebastian of Kanassery in Ward 14 of Mararikulam North Panchayat, was first cremated at the St Augustine's Church cemetery and then the ashes buried.

After the Latin Catholic diocese of Alappuzha in Kerala made the historic decision of burying the ashes of members who died of COVID -19 after cremation, many churches across the state have decided to allay the unfounded fears of the community on burial of COVID patients.

The Syro-Malabar Church and Church of South India have come forward to assure believers that members of the church will be given a befitting funeral even if he/she died of the highly contagious infection.

The bodies of two COVID victims from the Alappuzha diocese were cremated and the ashes buried in two parishes on Tuesday.

The decision was taken in view of the problems faced in deep burial of bodies as per COVID guidelines in coastal areas.

In the past, cremation was permitted in many churches. However, bodies were usually cremated outside and the burial ceremony would take place in the church.

This is the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in Kerala that permission has been granted for both cremation and burial in a diocesan cemetery.

Mariamma (85), wife of Thekkethaikkal Thomas of Kattoor in Alappuzha, was laid to rest at Kattoor St Michael's Church Cemetery with a funeral ceremony after cremation. Similarly, the body of Thressiamma (Achamma - 62), the wife of Sebastian of Kanassery in Ward 14 of Mararikulam North Panchayat, was first cremated at the St Augustine's Church cemetery and then the ashes buried.

The decision was taken by Bishop Dr James Anamparambil after a meeting of diocese members on Tuesday. Diocesan PRO Fr Xavier Kudiyamssery said that this procedure will be followed in all COVID deaths.

Bodies can be cremated: Changanacherry Archdiocese

Changanassery: The Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Changanassery has said that the bodies of people who die of COVID-19 can be cremated in common crematoriums.

The ashes can then be taken to the cemetery for final rites, a circular issued by Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam said.

The burial, however, cannot be done at homes, the circular said.

It said bodies can be taken directly to the cemetery for conducting the rites.

Burial can be done by digging a hole in the ground or in a grave. But the cellar is not allowed.

The pit should be 6 feet deep. Up to 20 people can attend the funeral service. The services of Sannadhasena volunteers can be used if needed.

The circular said those who were in contact with the dead person and are under observation those who are ill, including the priests, should not attend the funeral rites ceremony.

Vatican allows cremation

Alappuzha: The Vatican issued a press release in 2016 stating that cremation would be permitted for Catholics who prefer it.

The church practises and promotes funerals. However, it is not opposed to cremation and cremating a body was not against the faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarified.

In 1983, the Church made it clear in the Canon law that those who wished to be cremated should not be denied funeral services. This was also made clear in the 1990 Canon law for the Eastern Churches also.

Cremation does not go against the Catholic belief that the dying person will be resurrected at the Last Judgment.

After cremation, the ashes should be kept in a cemetery or church or in a specially prepared place.

The ash should not be spread in the atmosphere, land or water. It should also not be shared between family members or kept in mementos or lockets.

Ensure proper service for the dead: Syro-Malabar head

Kochi: Ministers and believers should ensure that there are no deficiencies or shortcomings in the funeral services of those who die of COVID, Syro-Malabar Church Major Archbishop (head) Cardinal Mar George Alencherry said.

Those responsible for the services should make all necessary arrangements.

The unfounded fear and inhuman behaviour over the funeral of those who died due to coronavirus is painful.

The tendency to protest against the burial of COVID victims and exploiting it for political gains is not desirable, he said.

The cardinal reminded that humanity should not be forgotten and that people should adopt proper preventive measures against COVID and not succumb to baseless fear.

COVID victims will be buried in cemetery: CSI Church

Kottayam: Members who die due to COVID-19 will be buried in the church cemetery depending on prevailing local circumstances and as per the COVID protocol, CSI Madhya (Central) Kerala Diocese Bishop Thomas K Oommen said.

As the whole world struggles against COVID, people's representatives and politicians should display maturity in joining the efforts to fight the disease, he said.

The name of the church has been unnecessarily dragged in connection with a COVID death in Chungam, Kottayam. He said the elderly Pentecostal believer had nothing to do with the CSI church.

Church officials have protested against the attack on it, including on social media. Strong legal action will be taken against those who indulged in such activities, the bishop said.

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