By Sheryleen Masuku
Former Zimbabwean president Robert Gabriel Mugabe was once quoted saying: “Jesus died once, and resurrected only once – and poor Mugabe several times”.
These remarks seem to have followed the late president to the grave as his family is now in a battle with current regime led by his once trusted lieutenant President Emmerson Mnangagwa, following allegations that he wants the late leader’s body to be exhumed and given a second burial.
The former first lady Grace Mugabe was summoned to a traditional court by Chief Zvimba on allegations that her husband was given an improper burial.
Although, the summons came from Chief Zvimba, Mugabe’s relatives have publicly accused Mnangagwa of having an upper hand in the matter.
In the summons letter Chief Zvimba alleged that Mugabe was buried in his rural homestead or domestic residence which is against the culture and traditions of Zvimba people.
The late Mugabe was educated in Catholic schools and trained as a teacher by the Jesuits in Kutama Mission College.
He remained a devout Catholic throughout his life.
He was buried on 28 September in 2019 in his rural home following a three-week tussle between his family and the Zimbabwean government concerning his final resting place.
It is against this background that SlyMedia News sort to hear the views of the Catholic Church on the burial of deceased persons and the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation for Catholics.
Father Mathew Charlesworth says, “the Catholic Church’s general position on burial and cremation references the Vatican’s 2016 instruction -Ad resurgendum cum Christo -To Rise with Christ”.
“The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased”.
“Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.
The Vatican’s 2016 guidelines emphasised that remains of the deceased must be laid to rest in a sacred place, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for that purpose and dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.
Although the guidelines do not give any specific instructions on the burial of the remains in a domestic courtyard or residence, the Vatican gave instructions on keeping ashes of those cremated in domestic residences.
Stating that in rare and exceptional cases the ashes of the deceased may be placed in a domestic residence.
“So whilst the general norm is that the cremated ashes of a deceased person should not be conserved in a domestic residence, it does allow “in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature”, at the discretion of the local Ordinary, and in agreement with the relevant Episcopal Conference, to concede permission to do so, so long as they are not divided or scattered” said Fr Charlesworth.
It is not clear why the Mugabe family decided to bury him in his courtyard instead of the family grave site area as Chief Zvimba alleges.
His nephew Leo Mugabe was however quoted saying the family wanted a temper proof casket over fears that there were people who wanted to temper with the late President’s remains for superstitious reasons.