Days after a BJP Councilor stopped the cremation of a COVID-19 victim at a public crematorium in Kottayam, Kerala, citing unscientific reasons, the Alappuzha Latin Catholic diocese decided to cremate the bodies of parishioners who succumb to the pandemic at their respective church cemeteries.
The decision will be applicable to all churches under the Alappuzha Latin diocese. The unusual call has attracted widespread attention and praise. Christian churches usually do not allow cremation. The cremations will be carried out in accordance with the COVID-19 protocols of the government. Priests would also participate in the last rites of the deceased.
According to a circular issued by the diocese, the ashes should be buried as per religious practice after the cremation. The diocese also allows believers to cremate the body in other crematoriums, following which the ashes can be brought to the parish church for burial.
“We have permission from Rome to cremate bodies earlier itself. All Catholic churches were permitted. But we followed traditional burial all these years. But, considering the present situation that there are many issues with the cremation of COVID-19 patients, we have decided to take this decision. This will be helpful to the district administration also. This is a historical decision in India,” Father Xavier, spokesperson of the Alappuzha diocese, told the media.
As per COVID-19 protocol, the burial pit should be 12-feet deep. However, it is not practical in coastal belts like Alappuzha where the ground water level is high. Pointing this out, Father Xavier added that cremation was the only option for the church.
After the circular was brought out by the church, the body of a COVID-19 patient, Thresiamma, was cremated at the Mararikulam St Augustine church on Tuesday. At the time the cremation took place at one end of the cemetery, priests conducted last rites at the other end.
According to reports, CSI church will also allow the cremation of its members who die of COVID-19 in its cemeteries, as per COVID-19 protocols.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the diocese’s decision was inspirational and could be followed by others.
“We have seen people coming out against the cremation of bodies of people succumbed to COVID-19 at electric crematorium under the misconception that the smoke from crematorium would cause the spread of virus. We are in a stage where people could believe such false propaganda and misinformation. There are people who deliberately mislead public and yield from it. The clergy can do a lot to unite all and to reject false propaganda in this catastrophic situation,” said Minister of Finance, TM Thomas Isaac, in a Facebook post.
Last Sunday, locals from Muttambalam led a protest against the cremation of an 83-year-old man who succumbed to COVID-19 at a public crematorium, fearing the spread of the spread of the novel coronavirus. The locals were mobilised by the BJP municipal councilor T.N. Harikumar. The body of the victim was cremated under tight police security late in the day.
Following this, the police booked Harikumar and 30 persons for preventing the cremation of the deceased at a public crematorium. A case has been registered under Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life).
The state has reported its highest single-day spike of 1,167 COVID-19 cases, taking the infection tally to 20,894. The death toll due to COVID-19 climbed to 67 with four more fatalities on Tuesday. Thirty-three health workers were among those infected with the active cases at 10,091; 679 people were discharged on Tuesday.
Close to 300 people were tested at the Kinfra Park in Menamkulam and 88 of them were found positive for COVID-19, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. Dismissing allegations that several COVID-19 deaths were not being reported by the state, he said the state government has been declaring fatalities as per the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation.
"As per the guidelines, it's a COVID death when a person dies due to severe coronavirus infection fatally affecting his organs. If a COVID patient dies in an accident or commits suicide or is drowned, it's not a COVID death," he said.
The expert panel of the health department will take a decision. Of the fresh cases, a total of 888 were infected through contacts while the source of infection of 55 people was not yet known, he told reporters.
While 122 people had come from abroad, as many as 96 returned to Kerala from other states. The four deaths were reported from Ernakulam, Kasaragod, Alappuzhaand Thiruvananthapuram districts, Vijayan said. Over 1.56 lakh people were under observation. Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Malappuram and Thrissur districts recorded over 100 cases on Tuesday and there were 486 hotspots in the state.
With Inputs from PTI