Even in death, non-believers can’t escape the crosses of Rome

Mrs. T. passed away at nearly 90 early this December. For many years she had been a mathematics teacher in a well-known high school in the capital: much loved by her students, she had left teaching to go on to manage, until just recently, one of the last truly authentic and cosmopolitan literary cafes in the historic downtown area. Mrs. T had arrived in Rome as a girl from the South, defying stereotypes and statistics, by being a life-time atheist, even during times which were much harder than the present to affirm non-belief. She married in a civil ceremony, she did not baptize her only child, she embraced with conviction all the secular battles she came across over the course of many years, from abortion to living wills.

An intimate but well-attended ceremony

Mrs. T., rational by nature, had asked her family, particularly her son and daughter-in-law, to arrange here farewell in accordance with her conscience, her life, and all that she had represented. This naturally included a non-religious funeral. And Mrs. T got what she asked for: thanks to Uaar and its increasingly widespread project Unique Ceremonies, which I had the honor to celebrate myself, at the Tempietto Egizio del Verano. Even if it is the only public place available for the entire city of Rome, we should consider ourselves lucky that at least we have one of them, unlike most of the rest of the country. 
It was an intimate but well-participated ceremony at the same time, with so many relatives and friends connected online, we played her favorite music, and shared the words of the people who knew and loved her. No religious symbols to be found, neither on the coffin nor on the hearse.

Then Mrs. T. arrived at the Flaminio Public Cemetery. Where the Ama, the municipal waste management company that also carries out mortuary services, buried her under a cross.

How do I know this? Because on the evening of the funeral I received a message from my daughter-in-law, disheartened, frustrated, and embittered. All the efforts that were made (as if grieving a lost one is not enough, less than friendly bureaucracy adds insult to injury) to give Mrs. T. what she wanted, what she deserved, what she was entitled to in a so-called Western democracy, were nullified by the municipal custom of Catholicizing every burial, whether you like it or not.

The legislation (Presidential Decree 285/1990 and its subsequent amendments) provides for a simple stone with a plaque

Why does this happen? In theory, nobody knows. The legislation (Presidential Decree 285/1990 and its subsequent amendments) provides for a simple stone with a plaque. The Municipality of Rome has yet to respond to a request for documentation promptly submitted by the Uaar Circle of Rome. But on the other hand, just recently, again in the same cemetery, that Marta Loi and many other women discovered graves in their names for the products of unclaimed therapeutic abortions. The scandal that followed caused the city assembly to modify the privacy legislation, albeit the only action taken. All good intentions to abolish the unwritten custom of illegitimately placing a religious symbol have been completely lost along the way.

Despite the attempted opposition of the funeral home, despite the clear wishes of the deceased and her loved ones, despite the fundamental human right of freedom of conscience, Mrs. T. who lived almost 90 years of secular life in Italy, in 2020 had to unwillingly be buried under a cross. In everyone’s name (and expense).

Adele Orioli

Filed under: UAAR