As fear and confusion persist about burying Covid-19 victims in some parts of India, the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church has formed squads to give a dignified burial to people dying from the pandemic.
As Covid-19 began to claim lives in the southern Indian state, several burials led to disputes as ill-informed villagers opposed burials, fearing the spread of the disease from buried bodies.
Confusion about safety, non-availabi-lity of undertakers and an inability to dig graves 10 feet deep as per government norms often resulted in Catholics not having a Christian burial.
“We want to ensure a dignified burial to all Catholics and formed volunteer groups in every diocese to assist the parish priest in burying those who die of Covid-19,” said.
The Eastern-rite Church has 35 dioceses across the world with close to five million faithful, but 18 dioceses and some four million Catholics live in Kerala.
Fr. Kavilpurayidam told UCA News on July 27 that the Church has asked all its dioceses to form burial squads – if needed, in parishes too – to help Covid-19 victims “get a decent and dignified burial.” The volunteers are trained to handle bodies as per Covid-19 protocols to ensure that “we follow government guidelines strictly,” he said.
One such burial was that of Varghese Pallan, a 72-year-old Catholic of Irinjalakuda Diocese, on July 26. He was buried with all customary funeral prayers and in compliance with government protocols at St Thomas Cathedral Church on the same day he died.