The government of New South Wales, Australia, has dropped plans to bring local Catholic cemeteries under state control, following public outcry and opposition from the Archdiocese of Sydney.
On Tuesday, the government confirmed that state premier Gladys Berejiklian had ordered the plan to combine five independent cemetery trusts into one government run body to be dropped, and sidelined the minister responsible for the decision.
The policy was first announced on May 25 by the Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, who argued that the consolidation was necessary to address a shortage of burial sites and financial shortfalls by the independent operators.
The plan was vigorously opposed by the Sydney archdiocese and the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, which was slated to be absorbed by the government. Both bodies argued that the care of Catholic graves was already fully funded, and land had recently been acquired for two new cemeteries.
Catholic leaders also expressed shock and outrage that there had been no prior consultation by the government before the decision was taken.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP, called the policy and lack of consultation an act of “brazen disregard for people of faith” and warned in a series of public statements that the government plan would jeopardize the freedom of the Church to care for Catholic graves, and leave cemetery sites vulnerable to sale, relocation, and development by government ministers.
Writing to his clergy shortly after the policy was announced, Archbishop Fisher said that “The Catholic Cemetery Trust has successfully and reverently managed Catholic cemeteries for more than 150 years.”
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