The Daily Telegraph reports consternation among church officials as a growing number of exhumation requests reflects a new attitude towards burial grounds as the final resting place for loved ones.
The Telegraph and the Daily Express each note that the Ministry of Justice receives around 25 requests every week to exhume human remains, many from family members who wish to take their loved ones with them when they move home.
The Church of England must approve such requests when the remains are interred in consecrated ground. A spokesperson told the Express,
“Since there is a presumption that Christian burial was permanent and that remains should not be portable, a faculty (the licence to carry out work) for exhumation would only exceptionally be granted.
The permanent burial of the physical body – or the burial of cremated remains – should be seen as a symbol of our entrusting the person to God for resurrection.
We are commending the person to God, saying farewell to them (for their ‘journey’), entrusting them in peace for their ultimate destination, with us, the heavenly Jerusalem.
This commending, entrusting, resting in peace does not sit easily with ‘portable remains’, which suggests the opposite: a holding on to the ‘symbol’ of a human life rather than a giving back to God.”
Timothy Briden, Chancellor of the Diocese of Bath and Wells and chair of the Ecclesiastical Judges Association, said that,
“An alarming number of people seem to have lost the notion of the grave as the final resting place and see human remains as assets to be dug up and taken with them like any other possessions when they move house.”
The Association sees the development as a sign that burial has lost its “religious and moral” significance in an increasingly secular society.
What do you think?