Archbishop moves to ban sitting, standing bodies at funerals

Archbishop Jason Gordon - Lincoln Holder
Archbishop Jason Gordon - Lincoln Holder

ARCHBISHOP Jason Gordon has said the recent trend in funerals where bodies were displayed in unorthodox sitting and standing positions will no longer be allowed in Roman Catholic churches.

There have been three such funerals in Trinidad and Tobago to date, two of which have been at RC churches: one in Diego Martin, where Che Lewis’s body was embalmed and placed on a chair, and the other at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

“It is a horror. It is a desecration of the dead and it is something that we are going to put a very clear policy on very shortly,” the archbishop said in an interview on the I95.5 Morning Show on Friday.

He said he has already approached the churches with the view to debarring such spectacles.

“We are not going to accept this kind of thing because it is, to use a Trinidadian word, it is a pappyshow of the dead. It is a desecration of the temple of the holy spirit.”

In November 2020, Lewis, who was shot and killed along with his father Adlay, was embalmed and placed in a sitting position. His body was put on the tray of a van which led a procession before being taken to St John’s the Evangelist Church in Diego Martin.

In March, the body of murder victim Jevon Clairmont was put in a glass enclosure for his funeral at the cathedral. The glass case was covered during the service, but afterwards the covering was removed to reveal his body, which was on display for his final journey to the Tunapuna Public Cemetery.

The two bodies were prepared by Dennie’s Funeral Home, which has defended its right to honour the request of families. Dennie’s said although it was a novel approach for TT, such funerals have been taking place in other parts of the world.

Since Lewis’s funeral, the first in TT, Dennie’s said interest has grown.

After Lewis’s funeral, police road safety co-ordinator Brent Batson said it was an offence to carry a person in a dangerous manner and that the police will investigate the funeral home’s conduct.

Gordon also intends to speak to the undertakers.

“The first one happened in one of our churches in Diego Martin, and then this other one. So we would be writing to the undertakers and saying to them if this happens, no funeral would take place at the church, that this is not allowable in our church.”

He was aghast that Lewis’s body, “was driven all over the place and then brought in the church and the priest wisely said, 'You cannot bring him into the church, into the service.' So they put him to sit at the door of the church.

"Remember, this is the first time this ever happened in Trinidad."

He said families have to understand if they are going for this type of embalming, then they would have to seek alternative methods to say goodbye to their loved ones. The funeral will not happen in the church. You have to do something else, because you can’t make a mockery out of the dead.”

Gordon said he will explain the seriousness of the situation to the undertakers.

“If they can’t hear, then we would go to the next step.”

But he said he likes doing things in order and not starting at the end.

“I always believe people are good generally and would hear and understand, and I want to start there.”


"Archbishop moves to ban sitting, standing bodies at funerals"

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