When the number of people succumbing to coronavirus infection is going up and burial of victims posing a big challenge, the Catholic Church in Kerala has come up with a solution by constituting volunteers’ teams to help burial of victims.
Couple of instances have been reported from Kerala wherein people and members of religious organisations opposed burial of the victims in graveyards as per faith and traditions. Priests and laity of many Christian churches opposed burial of victims fearing the chances of virus spread from cadaver.
Considering the sentiments of the victims’ families and to ensure their religious rights are upheld, the Catholic Church has constituted volunteers’ groups, including priests.
Initially, Idukki archdiocese constituted a team of 40 volunteers for burial service. The health department is giving necessary training to the team members.
“The team was constituted with 40 members including 25 priests and laity volunteers. The objective is not only to help burial of Christians but also to assist authorities in setting up first-line treatment centres and other facilities for disease prevention and control. The team will also help in cremating COVID-19 victims of any religion or faith. We have received encouraging response from youngsters and now, more than 70 members are part of the group. PPE kits and other protective gears required for the team members are getting through sponsorship,” said Fr. Mathew Njavarakattu, coordinator of the volunteer team.
A similar team was formed in Ernakulam – Angamaly archdiocese to help in virus prevention, control measures and burial. The group named Sahrudaya Samaritans was formed under ‘Sahrudaya’, a welfare service forum under the archdiocese.
“Everyone deserves a decent farewell, whatever might be the reason for their death and right to decent burial of an individual is guaranteed by the Constitution. Even the judges have recently made orders on this based on petitions filed in various high courts,” said Jose Pallipadan, vice president of Cherupushpam Mission League, Edappally unit a laity organisation.
Recent death of a nun due to COVID-19 in a hospital in Pazhanganad in Ernakulam has triggered controversy in the church. Laity organisations have alleged that the church leadership failed to coordinate with health authorities in giving decent burial to the nun. No priests or nuns attended the burial while members of a social organisation did the last rites.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Catholic Church by deviating from its traditional practice of burial has already allowed cremation of COVID-19 victims. After cremating the ashes have to be buried in the victim’s parish cemetery.