Hyderabad: The Catholic Church has announced that no funeral mass will be held for COVID-19 victims and said the bodies should be taken directly to the graveyard while strictly following the guidelines. Also, only five people will be allowed for the burial.

In view of the rising number of coronavirus deaths, the office of the Hyderabad Archdiocese issued fresh guidelines on 27 April with regard to funeral mass and cremation. The decision was taken considering the safety of priests, parishioners, and gravediggers employed by the church.

The Archbishop of Hyderabad, Dr. Poola Anthony, said, "It was brought to my notice the problems faced by the parish priests regarding burials of COVID-19 victims in our Catholic cemeteries. As COVID deaths are increasing day by day, it is suggested that the parish priests ask for a death certificate. If death is due to COVID-19 and if they don't have graves, the parishioners can contact the Telangana State Christian Minority Finance Corporation office. Those who have grave space in Catholic cemeteries have to follow guidelines for the safety of priests, people, and gravediggers."

According to the new guidelines, no public requiem mass for COVID-19 deaths will be held and the body should be taken directly to the burial ground where only funeral rites will be administered at the grave before burial. Also, the family has to arrange the last rites with the help of the GHMC.

If the GHMC personnel do not turn up, the body has to be sealed in a leak-proof zip bag and tightly packed in the coffin before getting it to the cemetery, the guidelines further stated, adding the body handlers and gravediggers have to wear PPE kits.

The church also said that sanitizer should be sprayed in the grave after dropping the coffin, before the grave is closed by mud. The priest administering the last rites will wear PPE and maintain a physical distance of eight feet. It further said that while the new guidelines of the Vatican allow cremation of the body, however, the remains must be placed in the church cemetery, that is family grave.

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