Amid increasing deaths from India’s worsening COVID-19 pandemic, the local Church is reluctantly opting for cremation instead of traditional Christian burial for the victims.
“Our options are limited. We have had five cremation-burials already, including one yesterday,” Bishop James Anaparambil of Aleppy, in the southern state of Kerala, told the Register Aug. 10.
India’s daily COVID-19 death toll crossed 1,000 on Aug. 9 for the first time, along with more than 62,000 new cases, giving India the dubious distinction of recording the most number of cases in the world that day.
“Under COVID protocol, the burial pit has to be 10-feet deep,” explained Bishop Anaparambil, who heads the Diocese of Aleppy, spread along the Arabian Sea coast. “But we cannot dig more than 2 feet due to the water level. Apart from this, there is a lot of fear against burying the COVID victims in the congested cemeteries.”
Though canon law permits cremation, Christians in India seldom cremate the dead, as it is widely considered a Hindu custom. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states, “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body” (2301). And the ashes must be buried.
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