The Diocese of Salisbury responds to the controversy over the decoration of graves

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A CHURCH diocese at the center of a controversial decision to remove almost all forms of decorations from graves has come under heavy criticism.

Residents whose loved ones are buried in the graveyard of St Mark’s Church in the village of Talbot recently stood up after the site operator, the Diocese of Salisbury, left hundreds of notes on the graves ordering the removal of all decorations – including some fresh flowers – in accordance with their regulations.

The order left many residents “distraught”, with two families approaching the Echo for answers from the diocese to determine why the decision was made and what regulations were broken.

More than a week after first leaving the notices, the organization provided the Echo with a statement.

Decorated graves with removal notices at St. Mark’s Church, Talbot village

The Diocese of Salisbury said: “We recognize that while the diocese is to enforce the regulations, the issue of cemeteries is indeed very sensitive.

“The regulations are designed to ensure that cemeteries are a place where people of all ages can find peace and comfort in remembering their loved ones, while also being a place of reflection and prayer.

“The cemeteries are also, as stipulated by the regulations, a historical testimony of successive generations, a shelter for funerary monuments of architectural and aesthetic excellence and a setting for the church itself. As such, they are different in nature from municipal cemeteries.

“The regulations are also designed to ensure that the cemetery is maintained in an orderly manner, which facilitates maintenance work (such as mowing the grass) and ensures the safety of those visiting the cemetery.

“As a diocese, we are currently working with the diocesan chancellor on whether silk flowers could be allowed for a limited period – recognizing that even these wear out after a while.”

Bournemouth Echo: note left at grave to remove all items from St Mark's Church, Talbot villageNote left on grave to remove all items from St. Mark’s Church, Talbot village

The two families who approached Echo said they were unaware of the regulations when they bought their plots more than 20 years ago.

The diocese also told the Echo that all cemeteries attached to Church of England sites are subject to “periodically” updated regulations.

When the Echo asked to consult the latest regulations, it dates from 2016. The families contacted by the Echo were not informed of any changes in the regulations in 2016.

A section of the regulations reads: “Memorials in the shape of a specific object, such as a heart or a rock; and memorabilia and objects such as statues, toys, wind chimes, photographs and candles should not be fixed, hung or placed with a memorial.

However, no explicit health and safety reasons are given, except to ensure that there is no “hazard when mowing”.

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