The Catholic Church on Thursday dismissed as an "unnecessary controversy" reports on the application of licence by various Christian communities for manufacturing of wine for mass.
Speaking to the media, spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Catholic church, Paul Thelekkat said that everything is done as per the law of the land.
"Churches apply for wine licenses to the State Excise department as per the guidelines of the Kochi Mass Wine rules. The raking up of unnecessary controversy should be avoided. What is given during mass is less than an ounce of wine. We really don't understand the reason for a discussion on this, as what is manufactured is just mass wine," said Thelekkat.
According to the State Excise department, the licensing authority that gives out licence to Churches, there are 24 licences given to various denomination of the churches for manufacturing 95,412 litres of wine annually.
Of the 14 districts, Kottayam district leads with an annual requirement of about 28,000 litres.
The present controversy that surfaced in the media arose as the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference – the state body of the Catholics in the state, has been at the forefront of a strong campaign warning the Pinarayi Vijayan government against tweaking the present liquor policy.
The liquor policy was formulated during the Oommen Chandy government which in 2015 closed down around 700 bars. There are now just two dozen bars operating in five star or more rated hotels.
The KCBC has expressed concern that the state government in the name of tourism is likely to give fresh licence to bars. The Left Democratic Front leadership is meeting on Thursday to finalise the new liquor policy, which they have said will be unveiled this month.
Cheriyan Phillip, a former top Congress leader and now a close aide of Vijayan and a popular fellow traveller of the CPI-M, said over the years traditions and customs of churches have all undergone changes.
"The use of wine during the mass is a symbolic expression of Jesus Christ's 'last supper'. One change that has taken place is during Palm Sunday earlier it was palm leaves that were used while today it's freshly cut coconut palm leaves. Likewise, we don't understand why they are very particular that they want wine. They can think of dipping the 'holy bread' in tender coconut water or maybe even grape juice," said Phillip.
According to the figures, the alcohol content in wine is above 8 per cent, while beer has only 6 per cent.
As per the latest revised Census report, of the 33.4 million Kerala population, Christians number 61.41 lakh (29.94 lakh males and 31.47 lakh females) and Catholics constitute more than 50 per cent.