India’s leading lay organisation has urged the prime minister’s office to consult religious leaders before radical decisions are taken on worship during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
At a webinar hosted by the All-India Catholic Union (AICU) last week, Catholic leaders discussed a guideline that the government issued for opening religious places.
The guideline allowed opening religious places from June 8, but banned the distribution of prasad or food offerings (Holy Communion).
Church leaders said that celebrating Mass in churches without being able to distribute Communion would render the whole exercise meaningless.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said “the Holy Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, was at the very core of the Christian Faith”.
“For Catholics, the bread and wine were the body and blood of Christ. People had been deprived for many months from partaking in Communion,” he said.
Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore, spiritual adviser to the AICU, said the Church is committed to personal hygiene and preventing the disease spreading.
He added the “detailed system management” inside churches should be left to the local bishop, priests and the laity.
Catholic leaders noted that the Church has contributed greatly in extending medical care, relief and other assistance to people impacted by unemployment, hunger and homelessness because of the pandemic.
Cardinal Gracias said many Church-run institutions had been converted to Covid-19 care wards, refugee centres and food distribution points.
“The Church and the community are in the forefront to relieve the hardships of migrant workers and their families,” he said.