Baghdad instructions mandating civil burial for coronavirus dead rankle many Christians

ANKAWA, Iraq – Amid the continuous deterioration of the global outbreak of the coronavirus – data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that the number of COVID-19 cases around the world exceeded 8 million cases, with over 400,000 deaths – churches in Iraq continue to be affected by necessary restrictions.

Arta FM has reported the Ministry of Health of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has registered 182 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the region to 2,644.

In light of the upsurge in cases, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphaël I Sako has instructed the priests of Baghdad that any pastoral service required of them must be conducted over the phone and social media.

At the direction of the central government, in the case of death due to COVID-19, civil burial ceremonies will be performed and the dead will be buried in the cemetery of Wadi al-Salam in a special area designated for Christians until the end of the pandemic.

A year after burial, the Church will be allowed to transport the remains to Church graveyards.

These instructions, and others, have aroused feelings of discontent of many Christians who consider them a clear breach of Christian religious rituals.