Covid-19 leaves Kerala churches 'poorer'

Thiruvananthapuram, April 9 : With the coronavirus pandemic striking hard, Kerala churches have taken a sound beating in all respects, financially and religiously.

Even as Churches are allowed to conduct their rituals, not more than 5 people, including the priests and his associates can participate, as many of them have opted to go for live streaming.

According to the Census report, of the 33.4 million Kerala population, Christians number 61.41 lakhs (29.94 lakhs males and 31.47 lakhs females), of these the Catholics account for 50 per cent.

For the Churches the passion week starting from Palm Sunday (April 5) the entire week till Easter Sunday (April 12), even for the not so devout ones, this is a time when non-vegetarian food disappears from the dining table and many arrive at the churches.

Starting Palm Sunday, there are three important days, Monday, Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday and on these days most of the churches were overflowing.

This is the same for all the various denominations of Churches - Catholics, that has three divisions in Kerala besides the Anglican (two sections) and at least 10 home grown churches.

Churches in Kerala, (barring the exception of the Catholics - they do receive funds from abroad), are mostly dependant on faithfuls for running the day-to-day activities.

And with the Covid pandemic striking very hard and the 21-day lockdown also coming in, those churches which were expecting to raise an additional corpus has been left high and dry, during the passion week.

According to estimates, any major church in the state capital during the passion week would have fetched a minimum of Rs one lakh as offerings and when it comes to towns and villages this figure would be around Rs 20,000.

Incidentally, the number of people visiting churches had started to come down from the first week of March and from March 22, the lockdown restrictions were announced.

The pattern of sharing the 'revenue' of most churches across denominations, is a portion of the revenue collected, has to be deposited in the local diocesan office, another portion to the main headquarters of the church and the local church is allowed to retain the rest.

"This is a sort of cross subsidising, as the richer churches have to take care of the smaller ones. The salaries of the priests have to be met. This sharing of revenue is also there if some churches own educational institutions and other assets," said a Christian who is closely associated with the daily running of a leading church.

And what came as a double whammy for the authorities here, hitherto, be it tsunami, ockhi waves, the two floods (2018, 19), it was only Kerala specific and at those trying times, the leadership of all the churches when pleaded for help, it came from all across the globe, but this time their plea is going to fall on deaf ears, as it's a pandemic.

"You wait and see, the first announcement that's going to come from our churches, as normalcy returns, would be frantic calls to contribute freely, what one would have done during the passion week and don't be surprised, they would ask for even more," said a believer, who knows precisely how church higher ups operate.

(IANS)

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Covid-19 leaves Kerala churches 'poorer'