King Richard III's pennant for the Mass
Those who read my post last month will know that we are planning a full High Requiem Mass for King Richard III on Thursday 26th March at 7.30pm - the same day that his mortal remains are to be reburied in Leicester Cathedral . What I had not realised was that in the meantime, they continue to undergo the indignity of being kept in a box in a laboratory. There is a petition asking Leicester cathedral that they might be kept in some more appropriate place, such as a chapel of rest. The petition is supported by the Looking For Richard Project Team (Philippa Langley, Dr John Ashdown-Hill, Annette Carson, Dr David Johnson, Wendy Johnson, Dr Raymond Bord).
You can sign it HERE.
I'm afraid that it is another case of lack of respect due to any human being made in the image and likeness of God which is so prevalent in our society today. It is not maudlin sentimentality that thinks his remains should be treated with respect but a proper understanding of the theology of the body and the failure to do so shows a lack of Christian sensibilities.
Watching an old episode of "Time Team" just the other day, Tony Robinson described a relic chapel as macabre because it would have been full of old bones. He didn't seem to appreciate the irony that they regularly dig up human remains on the programme and describe the finds as wonderful. So venerating them and giving them a place of honour in a church relic chapel is "macabre" but disturbing the graves of those properly buried is great family entertainment. I'm not suggesting we should not excavate archaeological sites but why the Church should be macabre in keeping relics while the "Time Team" can freely rejoice in displaying them to the world in plastic seed trays is quite beyond me.
Of course, the Christian sense of human dignity in and after death is also most often abused even by Catholics these days. There seems to be a growing tendency for people to do all sorts of secular things with the ashes of their loved ones. For Catholics, the Church teaches that ashes should be buried (on land or at sea) rather than scattered or kept on the mantelpiece.
While cremated remains may be buried in a grave, entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium or even buried at sea,
"the practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (OCF 416)
The cremated remains of the body may be properly buried at sea in the urn, coffin or other container in which they have been carried to the place of committal.
There is a useful brief summing up from the USA bishops' conference here.