a1 Barrister, Deputy Chancellor of the Dioceses of Chichester and Norwich
a2 Vicar of St Paul, Winchmore Hill
The deceased, an Italian Roman Catholic, was interred in the consecrated area of Putney Vale Cemetery shortly after his death. Prior to and at the time of burial the family was not made aware that the relevant plot was in consecrated ground nor of the significance of burial in consecrated ground. After the interment the widow felt that she had made a mistake and the family intended that the deceased should be cremated and that upon the death and cremation of the widow they should both be interred in a mausoleum in Italy with other family members. The deceased's cremated remains would be kept by the widow at home until this could take place. The deceased's widow, supported by her six children, petitioned for a faculty permitting the exhumation of the deceased's cremated remains. The chancellor sought and received evidence from relevant Roman Catholic diocesan authorities which indicated that consecration of ground had no theological significance or standing in Roman Catholic canon law. There was no objection to the family's proposals as long as the ashes were kept in a dignified manner. After referring to Re Blagdon Cemetery,1 the chancellor decided that as the family did not know that the relevant land was consecrated there had been a mistake which justified making an exception to the norm of permanence of Christian burial. Given the lack of objection by the Roman Catholic authorities to the exhumation the chancellor saw no reason to distinguish between a Roman Catholic and those of other or no faith.2 Whilst indicating that he found such special circumstances to exist, the chancellor stated that he would not have been prepared to grant a faculty which would permit the storage of the cremated remains at the widow's home. In light of the chancellor's concerns, the widow agreed to the re-interment of the remains in the grounds of her Roman Catholic parish church and on that basis a faculty was granted. The chancellor emphasised the need for greater clarity about the significance of burial in consecrated ground and took steps to ensure that incumbents, municipal cemetery managers and undertakers were reminded of this. [RA]
1  Fam 299.
2 The chancellor referred to the humanist case of Re Crawley Green Road Cemetery  Fam 308 and the orthodox Jewish case of Re Durrington Cemetery  Fam 33.