Church giving incentives to larger families

via PNS | KOCHI published on September 2, 2011

Worried over the steady fall in the growth of Christian population in the State, parishes in Kerala have started giving incentives for Catholics to have larger families even when the Central and State governments do not want parents to beget more than two children.

St Vincent De Paul Forane Church, a parish church in Wayanad district, is offering fixed rate deposits of Rs 10,000 in the name of the fifth child born to a Catholic family. A Catholic News Agency report said the parish church had issued deposits to two families, according to church vicar Fr Jose Kallarackal. Part of the Sunday collection is set aside for such deposits, it says.

The programme, launched in mid-August, is being executed with assistance from Sion Prolife Movement. Its regional coordinator Salu Mecheril is quoted as saying that the campaign’s popularity is increasing and that a second parish is preparing to adopt the same plan. He said efforts were on to spread the campaign to all parishes in the Wayanad’s Mananthavady diocese.

Church sources said that such initiatives from the part of Catholic dioceses in Kerala had started as back as in 2008. They said the Idukki diocese had initiated a programme to give assistance to parents with more children than two in 2008.

According to the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KCBC), a family trend to have only one child or none at all would imperil the Catholic community. As per the 2001 census, Christians made up 19 percent of Kerala’s population of over 31 million, showing a drop from the 1991 census finding of 19.5 percent.

The larger family concept was mooted by the Church in the context of the fall in the population growth at a rate of -0.40 percent per decade. Church sources say that Hindus also should view the situation seriously as their rate of fall of population growth, at 1.55 percent a decade, is far more critical in the context of a growth in the Muslim population at a rate of 1.75 percent.

In Kerala, Hindus constitute 55 percent of the total population, while Muslims form 24.7 percent. Christians constitute 19 percent or less. A church source said the demographic studies were showing an alarming trend in Kerala where Muslim families alone were showing increase in the number of children.

Among the chief seven denominations of the Kerala church, Syrian Christians, constituting 80 percent of the total Christians, are the most concerned about this trend.

“Our men and women had got good education and this has contributed hugely to the shrinkage of the population. We will have to use our means to re-educate them to have more children,” said a source.

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