Priests accept “Salary challenge,” give up monthly salary

Most priests of Faridabad diocese in northern India have decided to give up one month salary as the nationwide lockdown has dried up church income.

May 24, 2020

By Jose Kavi
Most priests of Faridabad diocese in northern India have decided to give up one month salary as the nationwide lockdown has dried up church income.

On May 17, the head of the Syro-Malabar diocese, Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara announced 50 percent reduction in the annual fees from parishes to the diocesan curia.

These developments took place on the say India extended the lockdown for the fourth time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed the lockdown from the midnight of March 24 to contain the coronavirus. It will now end on May 31. Initially, it was for 21 days, then it was extended to May 3 and then to May 17.

The lockdown has dried up Sunday collections and donations as churches are closed for public worship, says a press release from the public relations officer of the diocese that covers the national capital, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab and parts of Uttar Pradesh.

The PRO, Father Ginto Tom, says some parishes now struggle to meet expenses, including the monthly salary of their priests.

“In this context, the clergy of the Faridabad diocese has come up with a gesture of magnanimity and generosity to give up one month salary to alleviate the burden of the parish and community,” the PRO said.

Father Tom points out that the priests’ acceptance of “salary challenge” and diocesan decision to halve the parish contribution come at a time when some other dioceses have called for greater contributions and collections from their people.

The “gesture of solidarity of these priests should be appreciated,” he adds.

The “salary challenge” was first made by the federal government on April 30 to raise funds for Covid-19 resistance activities.

The revenue department asked its officers to donate one day’s salary every month for full fiscal year until March 2021 to assist the government in its battle against Covid-19.

On May 14, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind decided to forego 30 percent of his salary for the whole year apart from directing officials to adopt other austerity measures.

The president’s domestic tours will be substantially reduced, guest lists as well as food menu at official ceremonies will be cut and plans to purchase a new Presidential Limousine have been deferred, said a press note from Rashtrapati Bhavan.

In Faridabad diocese, Archbishop Bharanikulangara hailed his priests’ decision as “a praiseworthy move” and it was a church-level salary challenge.

“When my parishes struggle to survive, and some not having sufficient amount to pay even the salaries, the diocesan leadership should understand that and offered a considerable reduction of 50 percent in the annual fees from the parishes.”

Father Tom says the diocesan leadership has designed a program to support those priests who cannot join the “salary challenge” because of personal circumstances.

P J Thomas, secretary of the diocesan pastoral council, termed as “commendable and remarkable” the priests’ decision “to respond positively to the financial difficulties of the parish” they serve.

According to the lay leader, the diocesan leadership “is responding with a sense of reality during the lockdown.”

Father Tom says all 32 parishes and 12 mission stations under Faridabad are Catholics manage with the “generous donations” of their members, who are all migrants from Kerala, a southern Indian state. “Since there are no Sunday collections, many parishes are in a miserable stage even for essential expenses,” he adds.

The diocese is served by 38 diocesan and 24 religious priests.

The priest also points out that the parishes in Kerala manage with rent from buildings, and income from land institutions.--Matters India

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