A diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala has announced a welfare scheme to support families with five or more children, a move seen as encouraging the community to boost its numbers.
Under the scheme, presented by the Family Apostolate of the Pala diocese of the Church, monthly assistance of Rs 1500 is promised for couples married after the year 2000 and having five or more children. For the fourth and subsequent children in a family, a scholarship will be provided for studies at the St Joseph’s College of Engineering and Technology, Pala. Additionally, the Mar Sleeva Medicity hospital in Pala will cover pregnancy-related expenses for women delivering their fourth and subsequent children. Both the college and hospital fall under the Church.
The scheme was announced at an online meeting by Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt as part of the year of the family celebrations of the Church. The Bishop heads the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Pala in central Kerala.
Rev Joseph Kuttiyankal, director of the Family Apostolate, said the scheme is for those belonging to the Pala diocese of the Syro-Malabar church. The diocese covers Meenachil taluk and some parts of Kottayam taluk, areas from Koothattukulam to Piravom in Ernakulam district, Arakkulam panchayat and some parts of Velliyamattam panchayat in Idukki district.
“The scheme has been prepared with the aim of promoting families in different ways. Traditionally, the Church and the faithful have expressed the thought of having more children. That’s mainly why this (scheme) is being done. Also, many families are under financial strain due to Covid. We plan to solve that as well,” Rev Kuttiyankal told iemalayalam.com.
“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 level, it was decided to encourage families to have more children. As of now, the population growth rate of the community is declining,” he claimed. The KCBC stands for Kerala Catholic Bishops Council.
Rev Kuttiyankal said no scientific studies have been done to estimate the ‘declining birth rate’ of the community. “They are not needed. The Church has bonds going down to the grassroots within our community. In conversations with priests of our diocese, we have realised that the strength of the community is declining,” he said.