The global recession seems to have hit the Catholic church in Kerala as well.
An article in Indiancatholic.com website has quoted a Catholic bishop as saying that recession has led to a 50 per cent drop in the outsourcing of "mass intentions", or remembrances to Indian priests of the Catholic church from Western countries.
The Indiancatholic.com, the official website of the spokesperson and media/information office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), quotes Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath, the Auxiliary Bishop of Ernakulam-Angamly archdiocese in Kerala, as saying that requests for prayers with special intentions or mass intentions used to pour into states like Kerala where Catholicism still thrives. Countries like the United States, Canada and Europe, where there is reported to be a shortage of priests, would "outsource" requests for special prayers to Indian churches.
Fr Paul Thelekkat, official spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, told IANS that though the word 'outsourcing' cannot be used for religious purposes, "it is not something new in the Catholic church because this has been going on for more than 100 years here".
According to the Catholic church norms, a priest can conduct only one mass a day and do a mass intention for just one person.
Thelekkat said the current rates for a mass intention, if the request is made here, is Rs.50, and if the request comes from abroad the price is US $5.
"This money which the priest receives is a sort of maintenance allowance for him. And the priest has to transfer any extra request for mass intention to the diocese, which distributes it to other priests every year," said Thelekkat.
Of Kerala's around 32 million population, Christians constitute 23 percent and of this Catholics account for more than half. There are more than 6,000 Catholic priests in the state.
However, a spokesperson of the Kerala Bishops Conference of India, Fr Stephen Alathara, said he was not aware of a fall in outsourcing of mass intentions.
"But I do know that due to the global crisis there has been a drop in the funds that arrive here from abroad by way of charity and grants," said Alathara.