Sky High Real Estate Prices Leading to Increased Rates of Cremation

The high cost of living in the Lower Mainland is driving families to do things they never thought they would. They are living in places they never imagined—forced to choose between tiny apartments or a monstrous commute. High land values are also having an impact on what happens when we die.   The rate of cremation is up. By pure economics, it makes sense. If land values go up, the price of a burial plot also rises. Peter Nobes, Director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, worries that people are making spiritual decisions based on mainly economic terms and what they think is correct which could leave them with an empty memory of a loved one.

I worry that Catholics—and many in other religions—are making decisions that will have profound spiritual implications without fully contemplating the impact.”

Nobes notes that the Catholic tradition requires the full body present for the funeral liturgy but the rite can be provided on a permission basis with cremated remains present in the church for the service. Once a liturgy is completed the body can be prepared for cremation with cremation burial.  The issue of scattering, where ashes are spread in a chosen area, is against church teaching out of reverence for the body. Nobes says scattering can leave loved ones feeling empty as there is no memorialization.

He recommends four steps to ensure dignified memorial of loved ones:

  • Have a plan.   The best way to ensure that you or a loved one is memorialized in keeping with the teachings of your faith is to have a burial plan. These are not decisions to be made during grieving. Most cemeteries offer many options. For cremated remains for example, burial can in the ground, in a niche wall or in a columbarium.
  • Understand the consequences. Scattering is not some obscure ‘Catholic’ issue. It is an issue of importance for most religions. It is also an issue for the public in terms of having public grounds becoming graveyards? Do we really want that to occur?
  • Consider the memory. What is it that represents the body after the ashes have been strewn? Nobes urges a careful consideration of the memorialization:
    “The bottom line for the Church is that cremains, though in ash form, are still what remains of the body. And we should no more scatter them than we would scatter body parts about.” Instead, he offers they should be interned on sacred ground with an appropriate memorial.
  • Pick the right service provider. Not every provider is versed in the teachings of every faith—make sure they know yours. This is a long-term commitment, so look for a business that is invested in the community – one that you know will still be around when your great-grandchildren want to come and offer a prayer.

For more information contact:
Peter Nobes, Director of Catholic Cemeteries at 604-531-2141 or by email at pnobes@rccav.org.

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