Fury over cross removal

The new layout at Carleton Crematorium.
The new layout at Carleton Crematorium.

THE removal of a cross at Carleton Crematorium has sparked controversy after it was claimed the move was “marginalising” Christianity.

Ministers say some mourners have been upset after council chiefs took down the cross which hung in the crematorium chapel above the catafalque – the platform used to hold the coffin during a funeral.

But Humanists, who do not hold any religious beliefs, say the removal of the crucifix has made the chapel more “user friendly” for everyone.

Previously, they used curtains to cover up the cross for their services.

Now town hall chiefs have pledged to install a new cross – which will be able to be removed for services of other faiths, or for non-faith services.

In the meantime a temporary cross has been installed.

The changes were made as part of the £1.3m refurbishment of the crematorium which includes new cremators.

Rev Simon Cox, area dean for Blackpool and rector of All Hallows Church in Bispham, said: “It has been distressing to those with faith and we want to support the bereaved.”

The controversy arose after the Lancashire Secular Humanists published a newsletter congratulating Blackpool Council for its refurbishment of the chapel.

The newsletter said “The imposing six foot high Christian cross looming over the catafalque – and all other religious iconography – has been removed...making the chapel user-friendly for everyone.”

Ian Abbott, chairman of the Lancashire Humanists which meets in Great Eccleston, said: “All crematoria are public places for use by all of society. They are not churches or places of worship and it is just not fair to have one religion dominating the building.”

Canon Andrew Sage, of St Stephen-on-the-Cliffs Church in Bispham, said some of his parishioners had been upset by the removal of the cross.

He said; “One was tearful because during her husband’s funeral she had focussed on this cross, and when she returned to the chapel for another funeral she was very upset to find it had been removed.”

Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member on Blackpool Council with responsibility for Carleton Crematorium, said: “The refurbishment has been done sympathetically to improve and modernise facilities while ensuring it’s a place where people feel comfortable coming to mourn and celebrate the life of their loved one.

“Some 85 per cent of services held at the crematorium are of Christian faith so it’s only right there is always a prominent cross on display.

“What we do have is an option this cross can be removed when requested to suit other religions and beliefs.”