Saturday, November 26, 2011

Catholic Charnel Houses in Korea

Our cultural experiences of death and funerals can be very different.  It is therefore difficult to find the same practices being followed, in any culture, when dealing with the death of a loved one. Seeing the necessity for setting aside more land  for cemeteries in Korea has brought about a change in the thinking of Koreans. In 2008, the number of those who chose cremation over burial reached nearly 70 percent.
And yet the facilities to cherish the memories of the dead are few. There is an aversion to these facilities by many in the culture, perhaps one reason being an extreme emphasis on health and fitness This opposition on the part of many of our citizens, often without good reason, is the reason local governments have difficulty in permitting charnel houses.

Even when these vaults that temporarily hold the remains of the recently deceased are located in buildings of worship, there are those who avoid them. A sign that the funeral procedures we now have are not conducive to giving respect to the dead. Even the constitutional court makes the building of charnel houses in churches difficult.
The law court acknowledged the sentiment of many of our citizens: "Our country has a cultural climate and sentiment that is afraid of the corpse and the tomb. In consideration of such an atmosphere in our culture, the legislature decided to regulate the establishment of charnel houses near schools in order to protect the educational environment."   

The editorial in the Catholic Times  goes on to say that a society that does not have respect for our predecessors is not a well-regulated society. To have places in churches to cherish the memory of the dead is to see life and death correctly and also be a chance to educate our children. In Europe and the United States, cemeteries often are on the grounds of the church.

There is no good reason for seeing the facilities for the dead as repugnant. The government has the task to promote a proper understanding of matters surrounding death, and the Catholic Church also must do a better job in communicating what it means to cherish the memory of those who have died.

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