On July 26, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church diocese in Kerala announced a welfare scheme for families that have five or more kids. The aim is believed to encourage the community to increase its population. Under the scheme, Rs 1,500 would be provided for the couple married after the year 2000 and have five or more children.
Additionally, the fourth and succeeding children in the family would get a scholarship for higher studies at St Joseph’s College of Engineering and Technology, Pala. The cost of pregnancy-related expenses for such families would be covered by the Mar Sleeva Medicity hospital in Pala. Notably, both college and hospital are being administered by the Church.
Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, head of Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Pala, announced the scheme during the online meeting, which was a part of the family celebrations at the Church.
The scheme is for families associated with Syro-Malabar church
Rev Joseph Kuttiyankal, director of the Family Apostolate, said in a statement that the scheme is specifically for the families associated with the Pala diocese of Syro-Malabar church. It 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.
Iemalayalam quoted Rev Kuttiyankal saying, “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.”
He added, “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.”
Rev Kuttiyankal claimed that there is no need for scientific studies to determine the declining birth rate among the community. “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 added.
He told The Hindu that the Church is yet to consider the actual number of families eligible for the scheme. Notably, in 2019, the Changanacherry Archdiocese had issued a letter in which they had said that the Christian population in Kerala was on the decline at an alarming rate.
The letter issued by Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam read, “During the formation of Kerala, Christians were the second-largest community in the state. But now, the community is only 18.38% of the state’s total population. In recent years, the birth rate in the Christian community has decreased to 14%.”