Attamangalam church at Kumarakom gained popularity when it denied the burial of Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra’s grandmother, Mary John Akhauri aged 94 who passed away on June 3 in Mumbai, the actress terming the denial to be “awful”. The issue hit the headlines because she being the grandmother of Bollywood queen, had back then married from outside her religion.
“The act of church was awful. But we should not concentrate on it. Rather we should look that we lost a family member,” said Priyanka Chopra, speaking to ANI in Patna.
The Church was one where Akhauri was baptised and one that her father had helped design. It was her last wish to rest in in peace in her childhood church cemetery, which unfortunately could not happen.
She was born Mary John in the Kavalappara family in Kumarakom. On her marriage to Akhouri, a doctor in Bihar, where Mary worked as a nurse, she became Madhu Jyotsna Akhouri. Priyanka Chopra is the daughter of Akhouri’s daughter, Madhu Chopra.
Chopra’s cousin Elias Kavalappara said, “She had confessed and even taken communion in this church two years back. I don’t see any reason why she should be denied her last wish. I am not going to take this lying down. This is the 21st century, not some dark age.”
Chopra was raised by her granny and the two were very close. The actress, in a statement said, “Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us everyday.”
The Metropolitan of the Kottayam diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, Thomas Mar Themothios, describing the action of the Attamangalam Church as “non-Christian” had no objection to the funeral being held at the St John’s Church in Kumarakom, rather he added that performing the funeral rite is a spiritual act. But the parish authorities including Father Simon Manuel, the vicar of the Attamangalam church said that the church has to follow its traditions and its constitution and the parish members were of the view that the deceased had married outside the church and had hardly been in touch with the church throughout the rest of her life.
“The decision not to allow her funeral to be held at the Church was wrong,” said the Bishop.
He also added that the act of the church was pure “denial of mercy” to the deceased and her family. “Denying funeral rights is inhuman and unchristian”.
However, Mary John Akhauri was buried in Ponkunnam, a little town on the Kottayam-Kumily road of Kerala itself.