Alappuzha: The Holy Family Latin Catholic Church at Karichal does not exist for Christians alone. It is a beacon of hope for Hindus and Muslims also as it fulfils the dreams of many poor families by arranging the marriages of their children.
It provides them financial aid and also arranges mandapam and pandal on its premises. The church in Veeyapuram panchayat in upper Kuttanad that lies sprawled on the banks of three rivers – Achankovil, Pampa and Paipad—has conducted the marriages of 200 Hindu and Muslim couples from 2009 to 2014.
It started its social mission with the fund from the Rachael George Charitable Trust instituted by her sons, M.G. Philip and M.G. Stephen and daughter-in-law Molamma Philip for charitable causes in 2009.
So far, five annual mass weddings have been held on the occasion of the church festival in January. The marriages of three communities are held at the same time.
Hindus marry in the mandapam erected on one side of the premises, Christians within the church and Muslims in the pandal on the other side. “ We organised the first mass wedding in January 2009 as part of the church feast. The church committee erected a mandapam for Hindus and pandal for Muslims and roped in priests from the respective communities to preside over the wedding.
Over a thousand people gathered during each mass wedding,” said Benny Mathews, president of the trust.
In the last three years, the church was doing maintenance work of the houses of poor people in surrounding areas. This year it spent Rs 65 lakh for maintaining 35 houses.
The next mass wedding will be held in January 2018, he said. Hindu and Muslim couples and their relations are taken inside the church to attend the Christian marriages. The weddings were held after getting special permission from the bishop. “Such marriages help maintain religious harmony,” said Joseph Daniel, vicar of the church which was built in 1976.
Girish Kumar from Veeyapuram, who entered wedded life in 2011, welcomed the church’s gesture of religious unity. “Eighteen couples had begun a new life together that day,” he said.
Mr Jose Gevarghese, secretary of the trust, pointed out that they were planning to distribute Rupees one lakh to the couple next time as a token of help apart from meeting the marriage expenses of the bridegrooms.