UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News

India

Covid-19 victim Orthodox priest's burial opposed in Kerala

Bishop says the objection was linked to a land dispute rather than the cause of the priest's death

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: June 04, 2020 08:25 AM GMT
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Covid-19 victim Orthodox priest's burial opposed in Kerala

A liturgical celebration in progress in a parish of the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Share this article :
Stiff opposition from a group of people in Kerala has forced church and civic authorities to postpone the burial of an Orthodox priest who died from Covid-19 in the southern Indian state.

Father K.G. Varghese, a 77-year-old priest of the Malankara Orthodox Church, died on June 2. He was hospitalized after he fell from a motorbike and tested positive for coronavirus hours before his death in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram.

Father Varghese could not be buried in his parish cemetery because it uses pre-constructed vaults, which goes against the government's burial protocols for Covid-19 victims. 

A cemetery in Malamugal village was selected for his burial but media reports said villagers opposed the burial for fear it could spread the virus in their area.

However, Orthodox Bishop Gabriel Mar Gregorios told UCA News that the objection was related to a land dispute rather than the priest's cause of death.

He said the cemetery at Malamugal village is associated with a new parish. No one has been buried so far on its land designated as a cemetery.

The bishop said local people, mostly Hindus, have been objecting to making it a cemetery and have moved court despite the church having all licenses and permissions to use its land as a burial ground.

"They objected to the priest's burial because it is the first burial, which they fear could weaken their case," Bishop Gregorios told UCA News.

The prelate said the priest's body was being kept in a mortuary while church officials examine other options such as burying him in another cemetery.

Thiruvananthapuram mayor K. Sreekumar told media on June 3 that the priest's relatives were willing to have his body cremated in the state crematorium if no other options are available.

"The senior officials such as the district collector, the top official of the district and others are trying to convince the people to allow the burial of the priest in the church cemetery itself," he said.

Mumbai High Court in Maharashtra state on May 22 ruled in favor of the burial of Covid-19 victims. It also nullified the civic body's order that all Covid-19 victims should be cremated.

The court quoted World Health Organization documents and said there was no scientific basis for believing that burial of Covid-19 victims could spread the virus if established protocols were followed.

Opposition to the burial of Covid-19 victims has forced court interventions in several cases, mostly from Hindus who prefer cremation, while Christians and Muslims opt for burials.

Tamil Nadu had to amend a law on April 26 to ensure the burial rights of Covid-19 victims following several incidents of violent protests in the southern state.

The amendment to the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act of 1939 stipulated three years in jail for those disrupting the burial of Covid-19 victims.

The government move came soon after violent protest against the burial of neurosurgeon Simon Hercules in his Catholic parish cemetery in state capital Chennai.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
UCAN Ad
 
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution