A culture of mourning” “

“Examining a funerary culture and pointing out new ways for a critical and constructive approach” to death: this is the declared objective of the conference on “Funerary culture: giving form to the future”, which was held at Erfurt, in Germany, from 16 to 17 October, and attended by over 120 exponents from the world of science and the sector. “Current changes in the attitude to death and mourning and new forms of funerals reflect the growth of individualism and depersonalisation in our society”, said Bishop Joachim Wanke of Erfurt and president of the pastoral commission of the German Episcopal Conference. Nonetheless, he added, “the problem is not so much cultural change as the fact that funerary rites and traditions have been emptied of meaning”. “The unconquerable hope in a new life for the dead characterises the Christian ethic of mourning”, an ethic that “on principle is not linked to specific cultural traditions, but is also open to new forms of expression”. In the bishop’s view, “the vitality and practice of memory of the Christian community in the liturgical celebration of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” represent “a bulwark against any tendency to a merely technical elimination of the dead”. Among the practices that help to define a new culture of mourning, Msgr. Wanke cited experiences made in celebrations for the dead that are also aimed at non-Christians, a “greater willingness” by Christian communities to support bereaved family members and a “critical and conscious” attitude to the Christian position in relation to “the social debate on the question of the dignity and limits of human life, raised by the new biosciences”.

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