KOCHI (UCAN): The Kerala High Court in southern India, dismissed a petition filed by the Qualified Private Medical Practitioners Association, an association of medical professionals in the state, seeking a ban on Holy Communion claiming that it was “unhealthy and posed a serious health hazard to the general public, especially the communicants.”
The court judgment came as media began to report the spread of infection and India reported its first case of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus on January 30, confirming the infection of a female medical student in Kerala who had returned from Wuhan, China, where the contagion was first reported. The student “was quarantined along with four others in isolation … she is stable; there is nothing to worry (about),” Kerala’s health minister, K.K. Shailaja, said.
The petition said the practice followed in the majority of the Christian Churches in India is that the priests serve wine from a single chalice using the same spoon into the mouth of every communicant. It said the wine is shared from the same cup, some using the same spoon without cleaning, which “gives rise to a very high possibility of saliva contamination.”
It said the priest distributing Communion wafer on the tongue also allows saliva contamination and ought to be avoided to check communicable diseases.
The judges dismissed the petition saying that Christian denominations have “different approaches concerning the administration and receipt of the holy sacrament. However, it is never compulsorily insisted upon and the believers receive it due to their absolute faith as followers of Christianity.”
The petitioners said they approached government authorities, especially the food and safety department, seeking action, but to no avail.
The court ruled that “the petitioner has no case that consequent to the receipt of Holy Communion, any persons were inflicted with communicable disease and therefore it is not for the court of law to interfere with the centuries-old practice,” the court said.
The court said that the Food Safety Authority “is not vested with any powers to interfere with the distribution or administering the holy sacrament in churches.”
Father Antony Thalachelloor, spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, said the petitioners acted “out of their ignorance. If one reads the petition they presented, it sounds as if Communion is a sort of big feast where different dishes are served.”
“Raising the question of hygiene on the distribution of Communion and sacramental wine itself is a clear indication that the petitioners knew nothing about Holy Eucharist, which is a very important and pious aspect of our faith,” he said.
Kerala has put 1,053 persons under surveillance, media reports claimed.
Federal officials said all those who have come from China after January 15 would be observed and tested as the virus has an incubation period of two weeks.