Thursday, August 30, 2012

Burial Culture

At one time the Church opposed cremation because of the anti-religious beliefs of some of its proponents: denial of immortality and resurrection. However, the Church no longer forbids the practice. And in Korea, among religious groups, close to 70 percent opt for cremation.

Cremation and the new burial procedures that come with the new burial culture was the topic of a recent Peace Weekly editorial. Because acquiring land for cemeteries is no longer possible, the priests' council of the Seoul Archdiocese decided to include, in the burial plot for priests at the main diocesan cemetery, a mausoleum for the interred remains of priests. Standard burial procedures would  continue as usual, but after twenty years the remains would be removed, cremated, and placed in the mausoleum. The cremation procedure will begin with the interment of priests, a decision by the archdiocese that was very much praised by the editorial.

Hopefully, this will be the start in the diocese of a new burial culture among the parishioners, as well. The many cemeteries within the diocese are now filled, and the only possibility left is to convert these cemeteries to this form of burial. The example of the priests should help the parishioners to take a more informed look at what is now being done, which should help them see the need for the cremation procedure.

Although there are many problems associated with conventional burials, few cemeteries are interested in changing over to mausoleums and crypts. The main reason is the opposition of many Koreans; death is not a subject they, or anyone, for that matter, like to think about. If, however, the new burial culture does catch on here and more mausoleums are built, which are often beautifully constructed, these buildings alone may help us experience more directly how death and life are part of existence.

The example of the Seoul Archdiocese should help make cremation a more acceptable option than it currently is for many Koreans; that was the hope expressed by the editorial, adding that visiting these mausoleums may also be a spur to increasing their growth in spiritual maturity and spreading the new burial culture throughout the country.