Late last month Pope Francis in a fatwa allowed his 1.2 billion Catholic sheep to cremate their love-ones but forbid them to scatter their ashes in waterways or save them in urns at homes – as is customary in Hindu religion.
Every Hindu wishes that his ashes should be scattered in Indian rivers of Ganga and Jumna. This practice has long polluted the rivers.
Varanasi, India, is a Hindu holy place to die. Hindus believe that dying along the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi will release them from the cycle of rebirth. If you have money, you can be ceremoniously cremated and released into the water. For the vast majority of the poor, however, their bodies are floated into the Ganges, exposed to the elements.
Francis’ fatwa has puzzled many Catholics who are used to observe Jewish tradition of All Souls’ Day which falls on November 2 each year.
Islam, Judaism and Russian and Greek Orthodox churches still forbid cremation.
Francis’ fatwa has brought Catholicism further closure to Roman Paganism. The modern-day Christianity was an imperial act by the Roman Emperor Constantine, The Great, in 324 CE. He was anointed as a Saint later on by the Catholic Church.
Burning the dead was a common practice among ancient Greeks and Romans as far back as 1000 B.C. By the 8th century BC, it was the predominant practice, as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey tell of the cremation of the bodies of Greek gods Achilles and Hector after death. The Greeks might have adopted cremation from a northern people as an imperative of war. Soldiers who died on the battlefield were burned, and then the ashes were gathered up and sent to their homeland for ceremonial burial. Thus, cremation came to be associated with the valor and manliness of war heroes.
I have to see the reaction of Catholic communities living among Muslim-majority countries, who until now have been burying their dead like fellow Muslim citizens.
In Islam, cremation is forbidden for the following reasons:
Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tradition are very clear on this subject. The teachings demands treating the dead with utmost respect; the body should be washed, dressed in a white shroud, and after performing a public prayer (janaza), the body should be lowered into ground for the resurrection in the life after death.
Holy Qur’an recommends the believers to visit graveyard as often as possible to learn their final abode and be humble.
Holy Qur’an says: “And indeed Allah honored the children of Adam (17:70).” Thus, cremation would be an act of dishonor to the dead.