Kerala bishop issues dress code for women
Idukki: A Catholic bishop in Kerala, southern India, has urged girls to avoid wearing outfits shorter than knee-length while inside the church.
In a pastoral letter, Bishop Mathew Anikuzhikattil of Idukki has asked women to keep special clothes to wear for prayers and rituals.
The pastoral letter was published in the latest edition of the diocesan bulletin.
The bishop, who will turn 75 on September 23, also wants parents to teach their children to respect and obey Church authorities and expecting mothers to take part in prayers.
“Baptism of newborns should be conducted within eight days of their birth. The ceremony should not be delayed for weeks and months in the name of grand celebrations,” said the letter.
The bishop also asked parents to give Christian names to their children, including their pet names. Parents, he added, should not blame priests and nuns in front of their kids, which would in turn affect children’s inclination toward divinity.
The Syro-Malabar prelate also urged parents not to encourage their kids to go after material gains. “Many young Christians choose married life without purity and this is reason for lack of faith,” he said. He also urged parents to restrict the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
Father Jimmy Poochakkat, official spokesperson of Syro Malabar Church, supports the bishop’s letter. “There is proper dress code to be followed by women even in Vatican. The bishop’s instructions are in good faith and it will help girls to feel safe and secure when they are out in public or face the audience while reading out the Holy Bible inside the church,” the priest explained.
Bishop Anikuzhikattil was embroiled in a controversy last December when he issued a pastoral letter asking Christian couples to produce children till the end of their reproductive capacity.
The pastoral letter issued on the occasion of Christmas termed creation a divine process and predicted miseries for those who upset it.
Social and political circles in Kerala viewed the letter as a reflection of the growing concern in the Church about the dwindling numbers of Christians in the state. Several other bishops had made similar calls earlier.
According to a study by KC Zachariah, former senior demographer with the World Bank and honorary fellow at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, the proportion of Christian couples who had undergone sterilization by 1991 was nearly 50 percent as against 34 percent among Muslims and upper caste Hindus.
As a result of this, the population of Christians continued to decline. The 2011 census data shows that the share of Christians in the total population of the state had come down from 21 percent in 1971 to 18.4 percent in 2011.