Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Kochi: In a significant move, the bishops` synod of Syro-Malabar Church (SMC), the most powerful Catholic rite in Kerala, has decided to allow Christians living in the state to cremate their dead relatives if they request so.
According to a report published in a leading English daily on Friday, the synod has authorised the bishops to sanction cremation if relatives of the deceased request for it.
The growing problem of shrinking space in the existing graveyards and for building new ones has probably forced the prominent churches in the state, including Orthodox, Jacobite, Marthoma and Church of South India etc, to allow cremation instead of only burial.
However, Fr Paul Thelakat, official spokesman for SMC, has denied that the church`s move is a direct consequence of the burial space crunch.
"Both cremation and burial present problems. While burial requires space, consigning bodies into flames can cause environmental problems if carried out in private places. Only public crematoriums have facilities to conduct such last rites without environmental consequences,`` Thelakat was quoted as saying.
The SMC spokesperson further said that cremation of bodies was permitted in the Canon laws in exceptional cases although burial is the most accepted form of last rites in Christianity.
"The practice has been in vogue in Europe for the last couple of years after coffins became very expensive. There were some rare cases of cremation performed by some church followers in Kerala also in the past,`` he added.
The synod, however, has cautioned the Church followers to ensure that last rites should not anyway affect the Christian faith in after life.
"The esteemed Christian practice of offering prayers for the deceased should be preserved,`` a statement released from the synod said.