Clergy outsourcing to India

By staff writers
24 Mar 2004

Clergy outsourcing to India

-24/3/04

As US and European companies outsource hi-tech work to India to benefit from low-cost and abundant skilled labour, the clergy is doing likewise seeking to compensate for the acute shortage of priests in the West reports Sky News.

Foreign priests are reportedly shipping out "Mass intentions" -- requests for services such as thanksgiving and forgiveness of sins -- to congregations in India, with each earning a priest about five euros or six dollars.

The Mass intentions usually come by post or e-mail through the church, although some Indian priests take down the requests by telephone from friends and contacts made abroad.

"When I am offered to say a Mass I don't look at the origin or person behind it," Velakombil told AFP. "It may be from Lyon or from my own native village in Kerala. As a priest my duty is to perform the Mass in the most sacred manner."

"When I am working in Kerala I would say the Mass in Malayalam irrespective of the fact that the Mass intention was from an offering made by someone in Europe or the US," he said.

The outsourcing of Mass is a decades-old tradition in Kerala where Christians make up 23 percent of its population of 30 million people. Local media term the ceremony the "Dollar Mass."

Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the local archdiocese and editor of the largest-selling Catholic weekly in Malayalam, said the practice had shot into the limelight because of Western countries' complaining of job losses from corporate outsourcing.

"Outsourcing religious services has been going for many years. This has nothing to do with the current fad over business process outsourcing or the services sector jobs," he said.

But while the phenomenon does not take jobs away from other parts of the world, unlike its corporate equivalent, critics say unscrupulous priests are scrambling to make a profit, with no way to verify whether the clerics performed the ceremonies.

"The only motivation for this is the lure of money," said Joseph Pulikunnel, honorary director of Indian Institute of Christian Studies.

Church officials noted, however, that priests were restricted to one Mass a day to prevent the hoarding of requests.

"We are quite capable of surviving without such help," said Jose Porunnedam, chancellor of the Syro-Malabar Church, a Catholic branch based in Kerala.

"A stipend for priests to say Mass is a well-accepted practice in the Church. It is natural that when you are getting paid in dollars or euros the income may look higher here when converted into the Indian currency," he said.

But for Thelakat, the archdiocese spokesman, seeking extra earnings was natural for Kerala's priests whose average incomes are no more than Rs 3,500 a month.

He said that no priest "worth his name" would take money without performing a ceremony. "A priest of 20 years experience will be drawing the same allowance as a new priest. The Church knows that this amount may not be sufficient for meeting the individual requirements," Thelakat said.

As US and European companies outsource hi-tech work to India to benefit from low-cost and abundant skilled labour, the clergy is doing likewise seeking to compensate for the acute shortage of priests in the West reports Sky News.

Foreign priests are reportedly shipping out "Mass intentions" -- requests for services such as thanksgiving and forgiveness of sins -- to congregations in India, with each earning a priest about five euros or six dollars.

The Mass intentions usually come by post or e-mail through the church, although some Indian priests take down the requests by telephone from friends and contacts made abroad.

"When I am offered to say a Mass I don't look at the origin or person behind it," Velakombil told AFP. "It may be from Lyon or from my own native village in Kerala. As a priest my duty is to perform the Mass in the most sacred manner."

"When I am working in Kerala I would say the Mass in Malayalam irrespective of the fact that the Mass intention was from an offering made by someone in Europe or the US," he said.

The outsourcing of Mass is a decades-old tradition in Kerala where Christians make up 23 percent of its population of 30 million people. Local media term the ceremony the "Dollar Mass."

Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the local archdiocese and editor of the largest-selling Catholic weekly in Malayalam, said the practice had shot into the limelight because of Western countries' complaining of job losses from corporate outsourcing.

"Outsourcing religious services has been going for many years. This has nothing to do with the current fad over business process outsourcing or the services sector jobs," he said.

But while the phenomenon does not take jobs away from other parts of the world, unlike its corporate equivalent, critics say unscrupulous priests are scrambling to make a profit, with no way to verify whether the clerics performed the ceremonies.

"The only motivation for this is the lure of money," said Joseph Pulikunnel, honorary director of Indian Institute of Christian Studies.

Church officials noted, however, that priests were restricted to one Mass a day to prevent the hoarding of requests.

"We are quite capable of surviving without such help," said Jose Porunnedam, chancellor of the Syro-Malabar Church, a Catholic branch based in Kerala.

"A stipend for priests to say Mass is a well-accepted practice in the Church. It is natural that when you are getting paid in dollars or euros the income may look higher here when converted into the Indian currency," he said.

But for Thelakat, the archdiocese spokesman, seeking extra earnings was natural for Kerala's priests whose average incomes are no more than Rs 3,500 a month.

He said that no priest "worth his name" would take money without performing a ceremony. "A priest of 20 years experience will be drawing the same allowance as a new priest. The Church knows that this amount may not be sufficient for meeting the individual requirements," Thelakat said.

Keywords: clergy | india
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