Church objects to trend of exhuming ‘portable remains’

A UK alarm has been sounded over a trend of bereaved family members, when they move home, seeking to exhume deceased loved ones to stay close to them.

Senior Church of England officials have warned that the practice is incompatible with Christian beliefs.

The UK’s Ministry of Justice receives 25 applications a week to exhume buried human remains.

Many of these come from families seeking to transport deceased relatives themselves, it has been revealed.

Under the Burial Act 1857, remains can only be exhumed on the authority of the Justice Secretary or the Church of England if from consecrated ground.

Now the Church has suggested that permission should only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

A spokesman said: “The permanent burial of the physical body, or the burial of cremated remains, should be seen as a symbol of our entrusting the person to God for resurrection.”

“This commending, entrusting, resting in peace does not sit easily with ‘portable remains’, which suggests the opposite, a holding onto the ‘symbol’ of a human life rather than a giving back to God.

“We are commending the person to God, saying farewell to them, entrusting them in peace for their ultimate destination, the heavenly Jerusalem.”

The Church suggested that the relocation of remains for reasons of convenience has become “almost a fashion”.

The Ecclesiastical Judges Association, comprised of diocesan chancellors who determine exhumation requests, said there was an increasing belief that “exhumation on demand” was acceptable as burial had lost its “religious and moral significance”.

Association chairman Timothy Briden, chancellor of the Bath and Wells diocese, said: “An alarming number of people seem to have lost the notion of the grave as the final resting place and see human remains as assets to be dug up and taken with them like any other possessions when they move house.”


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