The banning by the Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, of expensive funeral ceremonies by priests of the diocese came as cheering news to concerned faithful of the Church.
The ban, according to the bishop, requires priests to refrain from spending heavily at the funerals of their relatives. Such heavy spending include giving of souvenirs and cooking for sympathisers.
Bishop Ezeokafor then urged the faithful of Awka Diocese to emulate their Muslim counterparts who are known for their simple funerals.
Indeed, among the Muslims, everybody, no matter their status, is buried almost immediately when they die. The burial does not equally attract any fanfare and in a matter of hours everything is dispensed with.
But among the Christians it is a different ball game. At the demise of a relative or any other family member, the bereaved sometimes even borrows money in order to give what is termed a befitting burial to the deceased.
Thus it has become common to see people mourning their departed ones as though they are actually celebrating joyous events. Cows are slaughtered; expensive clothes are sown as mourning outfits, even different types; people are told what to wear to the funerals and new houses are even built.
It does not matter if after the funeral the mourner becomes bankrupt. That is how bad the entire thing has become. It certainly negates the Christian principle of humility and simplicity.
This is a culture that slowly crept into the Igbo nation, probably as a result of their interaction with people from other ethnic nationalities in the country and beyond. Today it has come to swallow us to the extent that even the dead are given no respect.
At some funerals the casket containing the remains of a deceased is tossed about as though it is a swinging game by undertakers who themselves are hired by mourners. While they swing the casket en-route to either the church or the grave, equally hired mourners wail all over the place to add to what is wrongly perceived as part of the glamour.
One is then constrained to wonder if burials have become occasions to flaunt wealth rather than those for sober reflections and praying for the dead.
Once the remains of a deceased are interred, massive feasting takes place amid loud music, with people sometimes fighting for food. Souvenirs are given out and those who do not get them complain loudly. Rather than add glamour to the occasion, it adds shame.
For some time now concerned people have expressed reservations about what happens at funerals without anyone doing anything. Attempts by some communities to address the issue have helped but not entirely.
However the directive given by the Catholic Diocese of Awka on the way priests should conduct the funerals of their family members can be the herald of a new dawn. The Church is one of the few institutions that still command respect and the decision to commence the advocacy from the Church is a good one.
It is hoped that from priests it will spread eventually to all the faithful of the diocese so that this madness called expensive funerals will be expunged from our culture.
We therefore commend Bishop Ezeokafor for his courage in the action just taken and hope it will be obeyed to the letter.