by BISMumbai Correspondent

The COVID-19 pandemic has made burial for the dead a difficult process. As death comes swift and sudden, the customary last rites and burial procedures have been made impossible to follow. For the COVID-19 deceased to rest in peace, the Vadodara Municipal Administration has been holding discussions with various communities to earmark designated pieces/plots, in cemeteries off residential city limits. Of the 04 Christian Cemeteries in Vadodara, 03 are located within residential city limits in Fatehgunj and Nizampura. The Divine Child Seva Kendra [DCSK] administered Christian Cemetery is the only one off the Ahmedabad-Mumbai National Highway [NH 8], estimated to be one of the busiest highways in the subcontinent.

In a letter issued on late Thursday evening, 07 April, Father Isaac Arackaparambil, Parish Priest at Don Bosco Roman Catholic Church Makarpura-Vadodara, the sole trustee of the Divine Child Seva Kendra [DCSK], that administers the Christian cemetery, wrote, “This comes to inform you that in the context of high risks involved in burying Christians dying of Covid-19 within the city limits of Baroda, Government Authorities approached Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes, the Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Vadodara to seek an alternative. Accordingly the Chancellor of the Diocese contacted me and informed me that the VMC identified our Christian Cemetery situated near the National Highway for burial of Christians who could possibly die with Covid-19, as it is on the outskirts of the city.” He further exhorts, "“During such a pandemic, it is our duty and obligation to fully cooperate with the government machinery for the burial of our Christian brethren. The said cemetery is specially demarcated for public use for the purpose of burial of the deceased of the Christian community by the District Collector’s order dated 10.10.2002. The VMC order dated 23.05.2003 has allowed for burial purposes for the Christian Community.” Father Arackaparambil states that any burials from the Christian community due to Covid-19 would be performed at a separate plot in the cemetery which is away from where the (regular) burials happen.

An official of the Health Department of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation [VMC] is supposed to have met Father Arackaparambil seeking cooperation for Christian community burials at the designated cemetery. The VMC is to facilitate any Covid-19 burials when needed directly and intimate Arackaparambil about the deaths, the letter states. As Father Arackaparambil writes, "They (VMC) will dig graves 15 ft deep with their members and machinery. The whole area will be sanitised by a special team. It is informed to them that no personnel from our side shall be present for safety reasons.Let us hope and pray that none of our brethren fall victim to this pandemic.”