Bihar bans sacramental wine

July 26, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Patna, July 25, 2016: State authorities in eastern Indian Bihar state have cancelled the church’s license to make sacramental wine saying it violates a law passed in April banning alcohol.

Despite the law prohibiting the production and use of alcohol, the government had allowed Catholic churches to continue to use wine for Mass.

“All kinds of alcohol are banned in the state and the use of sacramental wine by the church is against this law,” State Excise Commissioner, Aditya Kumar Das told the press in Patna recently.

There was a chance of abusing the exemption given to the church and so the department is bound to cancel it, he said.

Jesuit Brother Francis Thattaparambil, in charge of the church winery in Patna Archdioceses that produces wine for the entire state, said that he is “expecting officials to come and close the winery any time now.”

The Jesuit winery has been producing wine with a legal permit for more than 50 years, Brother Thattaparambil said.

“The Hindi word for wine is drakharas [literally, grape juice],” said Brother Thattaparambil. “This is a better definition since it is not meant for drinking as an intoxicating element.”

“We are afraid some elements from the Hindu community are behind this because the government banned alcohol in Hindu temples,” said a Catholic priest, who requested his name not to be published.

“It is ridiculous to compare our use of wine for sacramental purpose with that of Hindu worship where bottles of liquor are offered to idols,” he said.

Gabriel John, a Catholic leader of Patna Archdiocese said the laity would fight against the ban. “Let the church authorities discuss and decide if an alternative could be allowed,” he said.

Brother Thattaparambil said grape juice is a fine alternative but it will go bad fast and can’t always be made available. “We ferment it for preservation,” he explained.

Wine is equated with alcohol and alcohol consumption is a social taboo in India, especially among orthodox Hindus. Publicly consuming alcohol is frowned upon and considered socially unacceptable.

Father Devasia Mattathilany, Patna archdiocesan spokesperson, said that they will appeal to the government to reconsider the ban as Mass wine is “an integral part of our liturgy.”

Legal experts say since the law bans alcohol of every kind, the government will have to pass a resolution in the legislative assembly to free sacramental wine from the prohibition.

– ucan

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