Mumbai: One of the largest parishes in the western Indian city of Mumbai ushered a quiet revolution in the wake of World Environment Day June 5.
On June 8, the century-old Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Orlem, Malad, conducted the first shroud burial at its graveyard. Henceforth this will be the norm, says its pastor Father Gilbert De Lima.
By this method, corpses are interred only in a shroud, without being encased in a coffin, so that they decompose faster and allow space for future burials. The use of heavy coffins delays the natural process.
Both Christian and Muslim cemeteries citywide are facing a keen shortage of space for fresh burials.
“We began this initiative on June 5. All corpses will henceforth be interred only in a shroud,” Father De Lima told The Times of India.
The priest said their cemetery has only 370 temporary graves and 124 family graves for a parish of 18,500 members. “In fact we had to close the graveyard from September 2014 to October 2015 owing to shortage of space. We had to request relatives to take the remains to Charkop 2 km away.”
From then onward, the priests began persuading parishioners to see the wisdom of shroud burials. The parish comes under Bombay archdiocese of more than 530,000 Catholics, the largest diocese in India.
Father De Lima said his predecessor Father Larry Pereira, built vaults to deposit some older remains. That made a few more spaces available to the public.
“Father Michael Pinto, who is principal of St Anne’s School attached to our church, emphasized the need to forgo coffins during his Mass address. He also gave speeches to the parish council which comprises several smaller groups. Today thanks to the understanding of our parishioners, we have achieved this goal,” the parish priest added.
Even now, the parish recommends families who wish to use coffins to go to Charkop.
The parish’s revolutionary move prompted a reader, Utul Kapadia, to note: “Catholics are most understanding and practical and not fanatics. Such move shows their progressive approach as per the need of the hour.”
(Source: The Times of India)