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27-10-2009 Malta

Cremation idea gaining ground

There seems to be a slow move in favour of cremation with both the government and Church saying they do not object to the alternative to burial being requested by a number of mourners.

More than 200 people have joined an online group asking for the introduction of cremation and, earlier this month, Social Policy Minister John Dalli said the government had set aside a zone at the Addolorata Cemetery for the development of a crematorium.

Replying to a parliamentary question, Mr Dalli added that the government was not interested in actually developing or managing the crematorium and would leave that up to the private sector.

In 2002, the firm Malta Crematorium Company Ltd filed an application to build a crematorium at the cemetery and the application is still pending.

There is a pending application to construct a crematorium at the Santa Maria Addolorata CemeteryAccording to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority's website, the application is being assessed in terms of the Structure Plan and other established policies.

Another application was filed in 2005 to construct a crematorium in St Paul's Bay. The application was turned down by Mepa to the relief of residents, who strongly objected to it.

With the Church no longer opposing cremation, it has been considered by some as an alternative to the parcelling of more burial grounds as land where to bury the dead is fast disappearing.

Figures show there are 20,517 private graves in government cemeteries, of which 14,329 are at the Addolorata. There are currently 4,029 applications for graves at the Addolorata where there were more than 1,000 burials between January and August this year.

Earlier this month, Mr Dalli said the Cabinet was considering a proposal to extend the Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery by a further 9,000 new graves.

Reacting to this news, readers resurrected the cremation debate as some claimed it would solve the space problem.

One person wrote "cremation is clean and hygienic" while another said: "I would rather (be cremated) than be chucked into a hole in the rocks, left to rot."

Another reader disagreed with cremation adding: "The main reason I disagree is that, if further forensic examinations need to be carried out on the cause of death, the cadaver cannot be exhumed".

Readers also debated whether building a crematorium would be economically feasible.

More than 200 people joined the Facebook group called Let's Legalise Cremation In Malta in which they called for the introduction of cremation.

One person wrote: "I hate the thought of my body being kept under the ground to get eaten away. I always thought I would wish for my body to be cremated and preferably some of the ashes thrown into the sea."

Currently, cremation is not regulated by law since there are no crematoriums. However, bodies that were cremated abroad have been allowed a normal burial.

This is what is recommended by the Church in case of cremation. The president of the Theological Commission, Hector Scerri, explained that the Church recommended that the custom of burial be retained.

"But it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching... the faithful should be exhorted not to keep the ashes of the dead in their homes, but to bury them in the usual manner," he said.

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