According to scriptures, faith can move mountains and the Catholic church in the country is going to make a revolution of its kind by setting up crematorium for the dead. As part of this, the foundation stone for the installing the first gas-based crematorium was laid in near Thrissur in Kerala. It is expected that the Rs 45-lakh project will be completed in the next five months.
"This is an initiative by Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath. This was necessitated by the situation created by the pandemic. Bodies of some followers, who were Covid patients, were cremated at different locations," Fr. Simson Chirammel, the Director of Damian Institute run by the Thrissur Archdiocese, where the crematorium is coming up, told News18.com. According to him 29 Christians, who had died of Covid, were cremated at the Damian Institute during the last six months.
Initially, there were some objections from some laity members as they felt it went against 'traditional beliefs'. But Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath cleared all apprehensions citing theological and Canonical texts. The Archdiocese also conducted several sensitisation programmes among various sections in the church to create a consensus on cremation.
According to Thrissur archdiocese, the laity has a choice as they can choose between the burial or cremation. Those who are hit by the pandemic will be cremated as per the covid protocol and the rest can choose cremation or burial according to their wish.
"There is no conflict in belief as there are crematoriums for Christians in other parts of the world. So it is accepted as per canon law. However, there was a shock element in believers about cremation as they witness the bodies of the dear ones turn into ashes in a couple of minutes. This element prevented many from choosing the cremation. So they were reluctant to adopt it," said Fr. Simson Chirammel.
Now a system has been made for the cremation where the body will be cremated in the same manner in the liturgy as they bury the body. Then the ashes will be taken out of the crematorium in a coffin and send back to the parishes for burial, in two to three hours. “We use coffins for the children as it will consume lesser space in the respective places,” said Fr. Simson Chirammel.
According to experts, cremation has more benefits as it offers better hygiene than burial, and it’s more eco-friendly and affordable as well as space-saving.
Land shortage to set up new cemeteries close to the church was also a key reason that forced the church to permanently accept a cremation as an alternative method.
The foundation stone for the crematorium was laid by the Government Chief Whip K Rajan and Archbishop Thazhath while Auxiliary Bishop Mar Tony Neelamkavil blessed the stone. It is expected that at least six cremations can be done in a day in the crematorium.
According to sources in the church, the movement will be endorsed by the dioceses across the country. One of the early birds will be the Irinjalakuda diocese in Thrissur district waiting for the sanctions from the state government to set up a permanent crematorium at Aroormuzhi, near Athirappilly.