Kerala: Catholic parish hosts cremation of Hindu woman
by Nirmala Carvalho

The family of Omana, 68, approached the local church priest for the Hindu rite because they had no room for a funeral pyre on their land. Fr. Varghese Mathilakathukuzhy and some volunteers didn't think twice and welcomed the funeral in the Catholic cemetery.



Thiruvananthapuram (AsiaNews) - A Catholic church has allowed the cremation in its cemetery of a Hindu woman. "Family members approached me and expressed their concern that they could not conduct the funeral on their own land. I didn't think twice," said Fr. Varghese Mathilakathukuzhy, vicar of St Jospeh's Church in Ramankary village, near Alappuzha.

At a later date, Fr. Mathilakathukuzhy informed church council members and parishioners of his decision. "The response was unanimous, everyone said 'let's help them,'" he said. 

Omana, 68, had died Aug. 12. The family, which did not have the space to accommodate a funeral pyre on its grounds, approached the local church, for which the elderly woman's son had worked as a carpenter. 

Fr. Mathilakathukuzhy immediately mobilized a group of 25 young volunteers, the church's "special task force," which originated with the covid emergency but is active on multiple fronts. "Everyone was willing to help," the pastor said.

Funeral rites were held inside the building and cremation in the cemetery. At 3 p.m., the church premises welcomed Omana's family members to pay their last respects, then volunteers lit the funeral pyre typical of the Hindu ritual in the cemetery.

"Understanding and compassion for others is even more important now with covid," said Fr. Mathilakathukuzhy. "And I am proud of the way our church members have conducted themselves."