South India alcohol ban could include Communion wine

By ACNS staff
Posted Aug 28, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches in India’s southern Kerala state have given a mixed response to government proposals for a total prohibition of alcohol within 10 years.

While Christian leaders have welcomed the ban, which will be gradually phased in over the next decade, some are concerned at calls for Communion wine to be included.

Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam of the Church of South India’s South Kerala diocese, told the Financial Times, “There are so many drunkards in our society – it is a grave concern among the people. It is very good to abolish alcohol from this land. They cannot stop it in a day, a week or a month, but the church is supporting the government to get rid of all these things.”

However, there have been calls from some quarters for the church to come under the ban and replace all its Communion wine with non-alcoholic substitutes. reported that Vellapally Natesan, general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a Hindu political group, demanded the government cancel 23 licenses issued to Roman Catholic dioceses, religious orders and other Christian groups to produce Mass wine.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that Archbishop Francis Kallarackal of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly
had earlier stated that wine was integral to mass being con-celebrated by Christians all over the world and so could not be banned.

Syro Malabar Church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekat told PTI, “No church uses anything other than wine. We will continue the tradition,” he said.

Thomas K Oommen, bishop of the Central Kerala diocese of the Church of South India (CSI), told the New Indian Express that “it [Communion with wine] will remain unchanged until the world ends,” adding that calling for Communion wine to be included in the alcohol ban was not a proper interpretation of a decision “that could contribute to the cultural advancement of society.”

However, Bishop Philiphose Mar Chrysostom of the indigenous Mar Thoma Syrian Church told, “Churches should think about using grape water, as had been the practice in the past, instead of wine.”

Speaking to the media on Monday, V M Sudheeran, president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), said the call to ban wine in churches was not appropriate considering it had been part of centuries-old ritual and tradition.

“It is for the Christian church to think over whether liquor should be banned. The interference of external forces is not proper.”

Keralans consume the highest amount of alcohol of any state in India and temperance groups have been pressing for a total ban to address a alcohol abuse problem across the state.

There are those who have criticized the move, however, saying that it will be a very bad decision for the tourist industry in a state that welcomes around 800,000 visitors a year.


Comments (5)

  1. Robert Walker says:

    We in the United States tried to end alcohol use and it was a total failure. Alcohol became available through those with no regard for the law and the cost to society became greater than before. It would be a better move for this state of Indian to place the money they intend to spend on prohibition into treatment facilities for those addicted to alcohol without charge to the patients.

  2. The Rev Donald Heacock says:

    I am proud of our Episcopal Church for being the only national church to vote to repeal prohibition. I wish we still had the courage to call for the end of the war on drugs. It is a health issue we only turn into a crime . The Indians will create a giant criminal racket.

  3. Rich McDonough says:

    It is foolish to think that “banning” liquor will in any way stop it. That has been proven over and over. It did not work during prohibition in the US and it does not work today in those areas of the US that have local options against liquor! This will only lead to crime and more alcoholism. Unfortunately, my guess is that the folks in India will not listen to us. Truly a sad situation.

  4. Julian Malakar says:

    Those who take by faith consecrated wine in Holy Communion take blood of our lord Jesus Christ, not wine for remission of our sins in remembering His sacrifice at Cross for our sins committed daily, knowing unknowingly. Jesus Christ used wine to institute our spiritual food for spiritual strength, and no one has authority to change historical truth as written in the Bible.

  5. Kuruvilla Mathews says:

    Dear All,
    CSI church congregations in the Gulf since the beginning of church gatherings/Services use other similar nonalcoholic drinks (e.g.. Vimto) and the practice is still continuing.
    Neither the visiting Bishops or the stationed priests have any concern over it. So what is there special only in Kerala or in India.
    I feel that the controversy lies in our controvert approach in everything.
    Any non alcoholic drink if decided to be used for the Holy sacrament will suffice. Once it is consecrated and taken by faith in remembrance of our Lords Sacrifice on the cross will have the same spiritual effect.

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