The various religions in the world is a constant source of wonder to me. The various sects seems never ending, here is a new one on me, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church – never heard of it? It has over a million followers. Although as religions go this fairly unique. It is a Syrian Christian church in the state of Kerala, India. That traces its origins to the missionary activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The church defines itself as “Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, and Episcopal in character”. That is a great description!
Anyway it has given permission for its clergy to be cremated. Which might not seem that big a deal, but for Churches to change that attitude towards such issues, changing millennia of precedent it is a big deal.
What is interesting it perhaps where and what rationale they have given for allowing the change.
In a circular issued to all parishes of the Church: “The Metropolitan/Episcopa reserves the right to permit the cremation of the mortal remains of the clergy either in an electric crematorium or otherwise on the basis of a prior request by the clergy,”
It added: “This could be permitted only after the burial service is completed at the parish.” “The mortal remains after cremation must be buried in either the family vault or single vault,”
Why has it chosen to make this significant step? Because of the limited space in cities.
Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma explained: “Today many are moving to cities from villages, this includes clergymen. Sometimes we face lots of problems to provide space for all for a burial in city parishes.”
The rationale for the change of heart came from Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa, Thiruvananthapuram diocesan bishop of the Church: “There was a belief among Christians earlier that body should not be cremated as it has to be resurrected. This thinking is changing today. God can bring back life even if it becomes ashes. The Church is leaning towards to this ancient concept of Hindu culture.”
So that’s okay then.