Declaration for an International Charter of Funerary Heritage
(Translated from French)
Comference on the Future of Cemeteries, Québec (Canada) 26 and 27, October 2000
and Montreal (Canada) 2 and 3 November 2000.
Many questions are raised regarding our funerary heritage, particularly our cemeteries and burial-places. Among these questions is how to intervene effectively in order to ensure their preservation. It is widely recognized that traditional funerary practices and burial-places, representative of a way of life and a culture that are of the past, are themselves in danger of being supplanted by newly emerging practices. These new practices, evolving naturally along with society, are replacing former ways, obliterating the significance of the artefacts they produced. Clearly these artefacts are an affirmation of a community’s values, and of its participation in a cultural structure; moreover, they enable the community to orient itself through a memory composed of identity, genealogy, history, and monuments.
The text of this declaration was proposed by Xavier Deflorenne (Belgium). It was presented for public discussion at the Conference organized by the Écomusée de l’Au-Delà in collaboration with the Commission de la Capitale nationale (Québec) and the periodical, Frontières (UQAM).
The funerary heritage is the complex and unified reality comprising sites, visible and invisible installations, expressions of attitudes and ritual in confronting death, loss, and grief, as well as the various sources that we call upon to explain these notions.
Whereas the wealth of the heritage represented by our burial rites and burial places is very great;
And whereas our burial rites and burial places are in danger abandonment and delapidation;
And whereas the preservation of the funerary heritage in its entirety is the responsibility of the families and those retaining the rights in question;
And whereas local communities accept a certain responsibility in the protection of the funerary heritage;
And whereas the government accepts a certain responsibility in the protection of the funerary heritage;
And whereas there is a need to coordinate the activities of families and those responsible, and of communities, religious institutions, professional groups, and the government in order to form an axis of common and efficient action;
We affirm the importance and the significance of the funerary heritage for societies and the individuals within them.
We recognize that the funerary heritage:
- partakes of many varied forms;
- taken both in the private and the collective senses, comprises material and spiritual or ritual expression, written as well oral
- is representative of that society as a whole from which it springs;
- in all its forms is the bearer of familial, regional, national, and universal memory.
- to study, know, and understand the funerary heritage of our respective countries, in order to clarify the necessary decisions and actions which affect it;
- through due study and research, to take the measures required for its conservation and its appreciation;
- to recognize and promote the understanding and appreciation of this heritage, in order to cultivate a sense of responsibility in families, communities, and public authorities
- to act in a respectful and well advised manner, giving priority to the proper treatment of the funerary heritage, to the appropriate methodologies for its preservation and protection, as well as to the development of tools and procedures to this end;
- to invite, encourage, and support collaboration among all parties concerned: families and individuals, religious institutions, professional groups, public authorities and associations here and elsewhere for the protection, the conservation, the appreciation, and the passing on of the funerary heritage;
- to encourage and promote the introduction of contemporary burial practices in cemeteries and burial-places, while fully respecting the existing heritage;
- to promote and publish the present declaration and the principles outlined herein.