Derry’s Bishop Dr. Seamus Hegarty has said the Catholic Church’s former practice of burying un-baptised babies outside of consecrated ground or in unmarked graves, caused great sadness to parents and families suffering the pain of loss of their child.
Dr Hegarty was speaking ahead of this afternoon’s unveiling of a new monument to still born children at the City Cemetery. Bishop Hegarty said the burial practice, which was still going on up until the 1990s in the city, had brought a great deal of sadness to many families over the years.
He said he hoped the new monument would bring consolation to families.
“The Catholic Church in Derry welcomes this initiative which it hopes will bring some consolation to parents and families who have suffered the terrible loss of an infant though miscarriage or still birth,” he said.
“Knowing the great love and tenderness which Jesus showed towards children and remembering his words, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not stop them’, the Church entrusts all still-born babies and children who die to the great mercy and love of God.
“The practice in the past of burying un-baptised babies outside of consecrated ground or in unmarked graves caused great sadness to many parents and families who were already suffering the pain of loss of their child.
“Today, through the prayers and ritual of the funeral and burial liturgies, the Church offers consolation to grieving parents and families in their loss, and reassurance of God’s infinite goodness and mercy.”
A special ceremony will be held at the City Cemetery this afternoon and at Altnagelvin Cemetery in the Waterside next Sunday in memory the thousands of stillborn babies who were buried in unmarked graves
Fr Stephen McLaughlin of St Mary’s Church in Creggan will offer a blessing as part of today’s ceremony.
“These monuments help to acknowledge the loss people suffered in the past,” he said.
“I hope they can be a source of comfort to the people that come along.”
Former Derry Mayor Paul Fleming, who helped raise awareness of the issue within Derry City Council, said it was an important move
“This is a very sensitive issue and one which is very close to many people’s hearts,” he said. “When I was Mayor last year I was approached by a number of people who were concerned that babies and infants were buried in unmarked graves in the cemeteries.
“I felt it was important that these graves were identified in some way that would allow their families and friends to grieve properly for their loss and have somewhere to visit, to say a prayer or spend a moment to reflect. I am delighted that this project is complete and hope that people who are grieving after the loss of a child in the past, get some comfort from visiting the monuments.”
Michael Feeney has composed a verse for people to read and reflect upon and this will be inscribed under the monument which have been donated by local companies, NI Memorials, Adair and Neely and Devlin Memorials donated the monuments.
Both dedication ceremonies today at the City Cemetery and next week at Altnagelvin Cemetery are open to the public.