06/08/2020, 10.26
INDIA
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Kerala, the government bans communion to the faithful. Churches prolong closure

by Biju Veticad

From today, Christian communities can reopen sacred buildings for the faithful. But there are strict conditions. In addition to sanitation, entry for people over the age of 65 is prohibited; the use of holy water and holy oils is prohibited; communion forbidden. Meanwhile, infections and deaths are growing in the country.

Thiruvananthapuram (AsiaNews) - From today, Catholic churches in India can reopen their buildings for celebrations with the faithful. They had been closed all the time since the lockdown, which began on March 25th. After the central government's permission to resume the celebrations, the governments of the different states of the confederation published specific rules to follow. Unlike what is happening in the West, here in India it is very difficult to find rules that are good for all religions. For example, the state of Kerala has forbidden to distribute all kinds of offerings (Prasadam, theertham: two terms used in the Hindu religion, a very small portion of dessert or food that is given to those who go to the temple, or the water offered to devotees to drink). For Catholics, the problem is that communion is also included in "Prasadam".

Many dioceses have decided to continue to keep the churches closed, although the National Episcopal Conference (CBCI) and the regional ones have sent some recommendations.

Archbishop Antony Kariyil, metropolitan vicar of Ernakulam Angamaly, the largest arch-eparchy of Kerala, said that he has come to the conclusion that it is better for his diocese not to resume liturgical services. This decision took place after discussing with the zonal vicars and with various lay representatives.

Thekkekara pastor Thomas Puthenpurackal, in the diocese of Changacherry, told AsiaNews that although he has started sanitizing the parish environments, he will most likely not be able to reopen the church to celebrate the Eucharist with the people. The biggest obstacle is the Kerala government's directive to prohibit the distribution of communion to the faithful during mass. “If we cannot distribute communion - points out Fr. Thomas - what is the meaning of the participation of the faithful in the celebration? ”.

Yesterday, late in the evening, Archbishop. Joseph Perumthottam of Changanacherry announced that the churches of his diocese will not resume Eucharistic celebrations with the public. Priests and faithful find the health care measures prescribed by the government very complex: priests must keep records of all participants; celebrate mass with no more than 100 people (dividing the parish into several groups); remove carpets from common places; do not use the stoups; do not anoint the faithful with holy oil; etc. In addition, people over 65 are prohibited from entering the church.

For Card. Baselios Cleemis, supreme head of the Syro-Malankara Church, older people also have the right to participate in the rites. “By closing churches, he says, we are not sure that the virus will not spread to the community. In any case, my faithful scattered throughout the country will strictly follow the government's indications ". The cardinal suggested to the government that the Church could find ways to have celebrations only for the "over 65".

Binoy Devasia, youth coordinator of the Syro-Malankara Church in Bophal (Madhya Pradesh), confirmed that churches in his city will not open for now, as the number of infected is rising more and more every day.

Unfortunately, although the lockdown ended on May 31, and the country is experiencing its stage 5, infections and deaths continue to rise. To date there are 256,611 positive cases and 7135 deaths.

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