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‘Green’ burial laws might not respect bodies or nature, Catholics say

Archdiocesan Catholic Cemeteries director Peter Nobes, who runs Gardens of Gethsemani cemetery just north of the border in Surrey, British Columbia, says  alternatives to traditional burials might make a smaller footprint on the environment, but do not offer a body the dignity it deserves.

In an article posted on catholicphilly.com Nobes says "We don’t ‘dispose’ of human remains, We take care of them in great reverence in anticipation of the resurrection.”

He added while it might sound “romantic” to use the resulting compost to plant a tree in memory of a deceased family member, Catholics should know it does not comply with church teaching.

“This ties in with church teaching not to scatter cremated remains,” he said. “Cremated remains are the body in another form, and we’re called to keep them together and bury them in a place of reverence. We don’t scatter remains or split them among family members.”

In May, Catholic bishops in Washington responded to the new legislation with a statement reminding area Catholics that bodies of deceased loved ones are to be treated with respect.

“In memory of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to reflect faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.”

While the church allows cremation, they wrote, ashes must be treated with the same respect as a body for burial and be kept in a sacred place.

Alkaline hydrolysis and recomposition, they said, need more research and peer-reviewed studies to prove they’re good for the environment and for public health. They expressed concern that alkaline hydrolysis could have a negative impact on municipal water systems because of the chemicals involved, and they criticized the legislation for not including screening to prevent dangerous pathogens from being released into the environment.

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