The Catholic Church has asked the Lagos State House of Assembly to allow the dead rest in peace by throwing out its proposal to pass a bill legalising voluntary cremation of unclaimed dead bodies in the state-owned mortuaries.
The bill seeking to legalise voluntary cremation of the dead and unclaimed corpses has already scaled the second reading on the floor of the House of Assembly.
Entitled: A bill to legalise voluntary cremation of corpses and unclaimed corpses in Lagos State,’’ the bill was sponsored by the Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Health Care Services, Suru Avoseh.
However, in a statement yesterday, the Administrator of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, said it was totally against any move to legalize cremation or the desecration of human corpse in any guise as it believes in life after death.
Cremation is the process of burning the human corpse to ashes and sprinkling the ashes into the sea as is practised in India by the adherents of Hindus, which is the predominant religion in the country and some other parts of the Asia.
The statement signed on Okogie’s behalf by the Lagos Archdiocesan Director of Social Communications, Very Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu, advised the law makers to quickly jettison the idea of legalizing cremation and instead concentrate on building more modern cemeteries to cater for the growing number of unclaimed corpses in the state hospitals.
Okogie’s statement read in part, “The issue of cremation is a very sensitive one because it bothers on our culture, tradition and religion. As Africans, it is against our culture and as Christians it is against our religious beliefs. In the Koran, the respect of the dead is very clear.
They do not allow the corpse to stay long, not to talk of cremation. We believe after life and the need to give the dead proper burial as prescribed in the Bible.
“I do not see any one who would want his corpse or that of loved ones cremated. Already you can see the response of Lagosians during the public hearing. Most of those who spoke are vehemently opposed to it. It is not acceptable at all. My advice is for the law makers to quickly jettison the idea and look for better ways of dealing with unclaimed corpses,”
He then urged the government to build more modern and affordable cemeteries in various parts of the state and rehabilitate the old ones that are already in very bad shapes or condition.
According to him, “It is only in Africa that we have no respect for the dead. Go to Atan and Ikoyi cemeteries, for instance, they have been over-taken by weeds. Security is another issue entirely.The dead deserves to rest in peace.”
While intimating his colleagues on the need to support the cremation bill, Avoseh said it addressed the pathetic state of public mortuaries and challenges being faced by health officials due to shortage of land for mass burial of unclaimed corpses.
Avoseh decried the present situation in which corpses were abandoned in mortuaries for several months, thereby stretching the capacity of the mortuaries to their limits.
He said: “During our visit to the mortuaries as a member of the ad-hoc committee, I was disturbed to see heaps of corpses that were not claimed by their relatives. So, Lagos should once again take the lead in the introduction of this legislation (cremation) in the country.”