CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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A new dignity for the miscarried

HONG KONG (SE): The diocese of Hong Kong has received permission from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for the creation of an Angel Garden at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Chai Wan where the parents of children who were miscarried prior to the 24th week of pregnancy can be receive a proper burial for their child.
 
Under current practice, a foetus that is miscarried prior to 24 weeks is defined as medical waste and disposed of accordingly.
 
However, the matter came to a head some months ago when a young Catholic couple requested the department in April to return the foetus of their miscarried child so they could bury the child in the usual manner.
 
UCAN reported that the couple initially asked the department to make an exception to the usual practice, but after a couple of months tangled in red tape and fielding by-laws, it was suggested to them that they ask the diocese to propose an alteration to the rules governing Catholic cemeteries to include burial of foetuses.
 
The couple lost their child at the 16-week mark of the pregnancy. Slightly abhorred at a suggestion of some hospital staff that they bury their child as a pet cat or dog, they took the advice of the government department and approached the diocese for help.
 
The hospital later apologised for comparing their child with a pet animal.
 
UCAN reported that Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, the vicar general of the diocese, said the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department suggested that the diocese propose an amendment to the diocese’s own rules on Catholic cemeteries which would allow for the burial of the remains of embryos and foetuses.
 
“Since it is not a change of government law, the department could deal with it immediately,” Father Chan explained.
 
He stressed that the Church believes that a foetus has human status from conception, so having a facility for a dignified burial, along with a memorial plaque is highly appropriate.
 
At the St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery in Happy Valley there is a memorial to unborn children and on May 27, a group organised by the Pastoral Commission for Marriage and Family gathered at the shrine to pray and present a floral tribute as a sign of faith in the resurrection.
 
The group also attended a Mass in the cemetery chapel celebrated by Father Martin Ip Po-lam. Father Ip said he was offering the Mass for the repose of the souls of those who did not live to open their eyes in this world and that he believes that God will continue to embrace them and take care of their lives in his own way.
 
He quoted Jesus as saying that it is easier for children to enter the kingdom of heaven, as they are more able to listen and learn.
 
The creation of the Angel Garden at Chai Wan will give Catholic couples the option of having a permanent memorial to their prematurely born children and a place to express their grief and sadness in a manner that is both legal and appropriate.

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