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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ashes to Ashes

When I die I want to be cremated. There are no crematoriums in Malta so I pray that I don't die there. I'd like to make things easier for whoever takes care of my funeral. I bring this up because of the confusion I've encountered throughout my life with Catholic views on cremation.

Until 1963 cremation was indeed prohibited by the Catholic Church. Since then the Vatican has lifted its ban on cremation. Canon 1176 of the Code of Canon Law states, "The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed, it does not however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching."

Until just a few years ago, prayers or rituals were still prohibited by the Vatican over cremated remains. This meant all funeral services were to occur in the presence of the body, with cremation taking place afterwards. It's quite interesting that this church ruling was altered on the 21st of March 1997. Under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican granted permission for the cremated remains of a body to be brought into church for the liturgical rites of burial.

For some reason I've been thinking about all this because of the recent demise of Pope John Paul II. I can't imagine there will ever be a papal cremation, but I believe that cremation will become a reality in Malta during the next decade or two.

Now that a full week has passed since the Pope's burial and all seems to be set of the conclave to start on Monday, I believe that this is an appropriate time to blog my views on John Paul II. I don't have much to say, and none of it hasn't already been said by someone else.

Karol Wojtyla was a decent man. Regardless of his papal status, I admired his political stance against totalitarian political oppression, even if I sometimes feel that the heavy-handed manner he detested in communism is tangentially similar to the Catholic edicts on the celibacy of priests, the role of women in society, homosexuality, liberation theology, and other controversial church issues. I also respect his design for dying. While different from Timothy Leary's, which I hold as a potential blueprint for my own passing, it was certainly true to his faith in Christian beliefs.

Unfortunately, my faith in Jesus Christ was severely rocked by the ways of the Catholic Church during my teenage years in Malta. I did not embraced another church in protest. Nor did I become an atheist or agnostic. If truth is one, paths are many. Then again, I have come to believe that truth is relative. If there is a universal truth, that truth is the power of light. Perhaps this is why I have an affinity for the fire of cremation.

"The truth shall set you free." - John 8:32

Blogger alex said...

I was informed by a very reliable source (a doctor) that the only real reason why cremation is not available in Malta is because a crematorium would not be financially viable where the death rate is too low - A crematorium needs to burn on average about 10 to 15 bodies to make financial sense. 

3:09 PM, April 18, 2005
Blogger MaltaGirl said...

I find it rather ironic that you use a quote about absolute truth to end a post espousing relative truth... 

5:31 PM, April 18, 2005
Anonymous john said...

I find it interesting that we all get caught up in discussing the relativity of the rules of man. We discuss them as if they were edicts from God. If we look at the energy behind all of our religious rules we can see the true agendas. If the truth is what we seek, we need to listen to the still small voice within each of our own hearts. The voice that never condemns, judges or hates. It never strives to control the thoughts or actions of another. It simply loves. 

9:32 PM, July 16, 2005

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