Lavish decorations at churches irks Archdiocese

'Several of newly constructed churches are not mere places of religious worship but palatial edifices with extraordinary interior and exterior decorations. They are being decorated ignoring clear norms of the Archdiocese,' Senior Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Mgr. Raphael Thattil, said.

Construction costs ranged between Rs 75 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore and accounted for at least Rs 100 crore on this account, he said.

The archdiocese had issued clear directions that the church buildings should be spacious and simple without lavish interior or exterior decorations and such other extravaganza, he said.

However, the archdiocese, was not in a position to strictly enforce its directions, he said.
He said there were certain priests enamoured of construction activities and wherever posted, they would explore possibility for either renovation, remodelling or construction of new churches on ''flimsy'' grounds for more comfort for the faithful in offering prayers to the Almighty. Another section of priests considered constructing new churches as a hobby for them, he said.

The Thrissur Catholic Archdiocese is stretched over 2,000 sq. kms with 239 parish churches and stations comprising a population of 4.81 lakh.

In certain cases, church construction costs crossed over Rs two crore. Over Rs two crore was spent on constructing the new Saint Antony's Church at nearby Cherpu and Our lady of Mount Carmel church at Kundannur, the senior Vicar General said.

The archdiocese's inability to enforce norms is attributed to the resistance of the parishioners on the ground that the entire funds for the construction was mobilized by the faithful of the parishes concerned.

Thattil said estimated costs of constructing Saint Thomas' church at Chowannoor would be over Rs three crore.

Funds for the construction were being mobilized by compulsory contributions from each and every family of the concerned parishes and accepting voluntary donations from other parts of the archdiocese, he said.

The modus operandi of mobilizing voluntary donations was that the vicar would announce during the homily the need for funds for the construction of a church at the parish concerned, he said.

The amount of contribution from each family of the parish, where the construction of church or renovation of a part of the existing church was necessary, would be decided by an ad hoc committee headed by the vicar of the concerned parish, on the basis of the income of the parishioners and it was mandatory to pay the amount so decided, he said.

The names of defaulters would be noted for ''grabbing'' the amount at appropriate occasions when they approached church authorities for conduct of religious ceremonies like baptism and betrothal. Under the circumstances, the defaulter-faithful would be reluctantly forced to remit the prescribed amount, the senior Vicar General said.

The Vicar of the Elanad Saint Anna Church, had constructed 25 churches, 26 chapels, 13 stages, nine cemeteries, four convents and two hospitals at different centres of the archdiocese and he was well-known for his obsession with construction activities, he said.

Thattil, however, said construction of churches for the newly constituted parishes and reconstruction of old and dilapidated church structures could not be avoided. He said it was essential to avoid lavish decorations with a view to reducing cost of construction of churches for lessening the burden on the parishioners to the maximum extent possible.

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