More the merrier: Kerala diocese offers benefits for large Christian families

Concerned over falling community size, Syro-Malabar Catholic Church offers cash, educational, medical support for families with 5 or more children

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A diocese of Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has unveiled a welfare scheme to assist families with five or more children. (Representational image)

Amid raging debate on whether or not India should try and rein in its population growth, and some states like Uttar Pradesh introducing measures to curb an increase, a reverse trend has been reported from Kerala.

A diocese of Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has unveiled a welfare scheme to assist families with five or more children, said media reports. The support would be in term of educational facilities, medical care and so on. The move is being viewed as a bid by the community’s leaders to boost its numbers.

Behind the move

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The Eparchy of Pala in Kottayam, which falls under the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, announced the measures as part of a ‘Year of the Family’ campaign proclaimed by Pope Francis. Decreasing population in the Keralite sect may have triggered the decision, said a Deccan Herald report.

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The diocese put out a message via social media platforms saying couples married after the year 2000 and having five or more children will be given aid of ₹1,500 a month via the Family Apostolate of the diocese. The fourth child, and those born thereafter, can pursue education at the St Joseph’s College of Engineering and Technology at Pala under a scholarship. Also, free medical care is given for the delivery of the fourth child onwards at the Mar Sleeva Medicity at Pala, said a pamphlet.

The report quoted Father Joseph Kuttiankal, Director of the Family Apostolate, as saying the decision was taken at an online meeting of elderly people on Sunday. There has been growing concern over a fall in the population of the community, he added.

Stemming the decline

An Indian Express report quoted him as saying: “There is a need to take our community forward. If not to increase the community’s population growth rate, we aim to retain the present growth. Even at the KCBC (Kerala Catholic Bishops Council) level, it was decided to encourage families to have more children. As of now, the population growth rate of the community is declining.”

The assistance was also aimed at supporting large families hit hard by a cash crunch due to the pandemic, he said.

Per Census 2011, Christians accounted for 18.38% of Kerala’s population, said the report. Hindus and Muslims account for 54.72% and Muslim 26.56%, respectively.

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