Laity group demands action for delaying burial

Indian Christians question bishop, priest over delayed last rites for Catholic dalit

Laity group demands action for delaying burial reporter, Kochi, India

January 24, 2011

A Christian group in the Indian state of Kerala wants action against a bishop and a parish priest for allegedly delaying the burial of a dalit Catholic youth. “We are demanding action against them for showing disrespect to a poor dalit,” said Joy Paul Puthussery, general secretary of the Joint Christian Council, which is also calling for the dead youth’s family. According to Puthussery, Mathai Rajan, a dalit youth, died on Jan. 10 and his parish priest refused to conduct burial services, saying he was not a practising Catholic. His father John Mathai said the family then sought the intervention of Bishop Sebastian Thekethecheril, who allowed the funeral on Jan. 12. But the parish priest was still not willing to conduct the service and the family had to keep the body in a mortuary, Mathai said. The priest finally came to their house to conduct the service on Jan. 19, under pressure from lay leaders and local civil authorities. Henry John, diocesan public relations official, denied the allegations. He said the issue was settled amicably after the bishop gave his consent for the burial. There have been previous similar controversies in Kerala, which accounts for the largest number of Christians in India. Related reports Court fines diocese, priest for denying burial Denial of church burial for suicide victims sparks controversy IB13001.1638