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From the beginning the principle seems to have been insisted upon that the faithful should be buried apart from the pagans. Cyprian of Carthage makes it a matter of reproach against a Spanish bishop Martial that he had not sufficiently attended to this, and that he had tolerated "filios exterarum gentium more apud profana sepulchra depositos et alienigenis consepultos" (Cyprian, Ep. "Ad hoc basilicas invadere voluistis ut vobis solis coemeteria vindicetis, non permittentes sepeliri corpora Catholica" (Optatus, VI, vii).With regard to the exclusion of suicides from the consecrated burial grounds it would appear that some similar practice was familiar to the pagans even before Christianity had spread throughout the empire.It is also withheld from those who have been killed in a duel, even though they should give signs of repentance before death.Other persons similarly debarred are notorious sinners who die without repentance, those who have openly held the sacraments in contempt (for example by staying away from Communion at Easter time to the public scandal ) and who showed no signs of sorrow, monks and nuns who are found to have died in the possession of money or valuables which they had kept for their own, and finally those who have directed that their bodies should be cremated after death.For the rest the diocesan statutes, regulations of the local ecclesiastical authority, and custom are to be considered, also the civil law and the public sanitary regulations.Speaking first of the usages of the Catholic Church at the present day it will probably be convenient to divide the various religious observances with which the Church surrounds the mortal remains of her faithful children after death into three different stages.As it often happened that a Catholic graveyard was the only available place of burial in a large district, it has been decided as a matter of necessity that in such cases it was possible to allow Protestants to be buried in a consecrated graveyard (S. In cases of necessity the Catholic parish priest may preside at such an interment, but he must not use any ritual or prayers that would be recognized as distinctively Catholic.It hardly needs saying that at the present day in almost every part of the world the prescriptions of the canon law regarding burial are in conflict with secular legislation in more than one particular.
It is not necessary that this choice should be formally registered in his will. Concilii, 24 march, 1871, Lex, 189.) Where no wish has been expressed it will be assumed that the interment is to take place in any vault or burial place which may have belonged to the deceased or his family, and failing this the remains should be buried in the cemetery of the parish in which the deceased had his domicile or quasi-domicile.
Tobit ; ; Sirach ; 2 Maccabees ), it is easy to understand how the interment of the mortal remains of the Christian dead has always been regarded as an act of religious import and has been surrounded at all times with some measure of religious ceremonial.
The motives of Christian burial will be more fully treated in the article CREMATION.
Any reasonable legal proof is sufficient as evidence of his wishes in the matter, and it has been decided that the testimony of one witness, for example his confessor, may be accepted, if there be no suspicion of interested motives. Certain exceptions, however, are recognized in the case of cardinals, bishops, canons, etc.
Formerly monastic and other churches claimed and enjoyed under certain conditions the privilege of interring notable benefactors within their precincts.
In such cases the Church is often compelled to waive her right, in order to prevent greater evils.