The Kerala excise department has rejected the application from M Soosai Pakiam, the Latin Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram, seeking a hike in the churchâ€™s annual wine production quota.
In the last week of March, a few leaked documents had indicated that Archbishop M Soosa Pakiam had sought a 900% increase in the wine production quota for mass under his Trivandrum (Latin) Archdiocese. This was met with criticism as the Kerala Catholic Bishop Council (KCBC) has always spearheaded protests against government owned liquor shops and bars, and was in full support of the Kerala liquor policy that led to the closing down of bars.
As per the Cochin Mass Wine Rules 1117, the Thiruvananthapuram diocese is allowed to produce 250 litres of wine per year for religious purposes. In the application to government seeking permission for enhanced wine production, the bishop had sought permission to produce 2500 litres of wine per year i.e. 10 times the present limit, citing that the existing amount was not sufficient to meet the needs of the diocese.
However, the excise department has reportedly found the request unreasonable. The Times of India accessed the excise department's reply through an RTI and quotes the joint excise commissioner as saying, "The number of total priests has been enhanced by 77% but the request is to enhance annual quantity of mass wine by 900%. The requested quantity is not in proportion with the number of priests. You are therefore directed to clarify the above point".
Soosai Pakiam, who is also president of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, had warned the state government earlier that the church would begin a mass agitation if they diluted the liquor policy introduced by UDF government in 2015. Catholic churches in Kerala have always been at the forefront against liquor shops in the state.
Fr Paul Madassery of KCBC Family commission told The News Minute that Jesus had never used wine as an intoxicant. â€śDuring the holy mass, we believe that the wine turns into the blood of Jesus Christ. Without that the holy sacrament is incomplete. Church never used it as an intoxicant. Other than during holy mass, we donâ€™t use wine anywhere. We just dip the bread in wine and distribute it among the people during mass. How come that can be compared to alcohol,â€ť he said.