Cyprus Mail

House to stop Church control over funeral charity collections

A GOVERNMENT bill stipulating that only the family of a deceased person will be able to decide how the money donated at their loved one’s funeral will be used is to be tabled before the House plenum to vote, DISY MP Annita Demetriou said on Wednesday.

The bill is much anticipated by charity organisations and the public alike. To-date a large chunk of the money collected for charity at the request of the families of deceased persons, goes to the Church. It is customary in Cyprus at funerals, instead of laying wreaths, to donate money to charity organisations chosen by the deceased person’s family.

It emerged during the discussion of the bill at the House human rights committee however, that in many cases, a large percentage of the money collected ends up in Church coffers.

“We have had many reports that even though the family wants to give the money to a charity of their choice, the Church forces them to allow the presence of other organisations collecting money for other causes, which it supports,” Demetriou told the Cyprus Mail.

She added that MPs received complaints that usually Church committees keep between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the money collected from a family’s chosen charity.

Discussion of the bill at committee level has been completed, Demetriou said, and it is expected to be tabled soon before the plenary for a vote.

“It will basically give the family of the deceased the exclusive right to decide where the donation money collected will go,” Demetriou said. This will be done through a letter sent by the family to the church where the funeral is taking place.

Many charity organisations are in anticipation of the law amendment as they face numerous problems with some bishoprics.

According to the head of a large charity organisation, who wished to remain anonymous, they  face problems only with two bishoprics; that of Tamassos whose jurisdiction lies in the rural southeast and southwest Nicosia areas, and that of Constantia, which oversees the Famagusta district.

“The bishopric of Constantia does not allow donations any more, whereas that of Tamassos issued rules stipulating that Church committees collect donations and give charitable organisations chosen by the family a percentage of the money collected,” the source said.

“All church committees set up their own donation tables at funerals in support of either their own charity work or other causes they promote, even if the family of the deceased did not ask them to and has already chosen another charity organisation,” the source said.

In the case of the Constantia bishopric, he said, sometimes if the family insisted, the church where the funeral took place would give a small amount to the charity chosen by the family.

He added that it was not uncommon for priests to even refuse to proceed with the funeral if the family did not accept the presence of Church charity tables instead of their chosen organisation. Demetriou said that this problem exists in all districts.

Bishop of Tamassos, Isaias, told earlier a TV news show that according to the rules of his bishopric, all donations in the memory of a deceased person are collected by members of Church committees. If the family, he said, wishes to donate money to a specific charitable organisation, if it is a registered one, it is given 60 per cent of the money collected whereas the remainder goes to the church to carry on its own charity work.

In the case the family has serious financial problems, the bishop said, then all the money goes to the family and the church even adds to that amount.

He added that families are informed beforehand of that policy when they contact a church for funeral arrangements.

His bishopric, he said, does not receive any of that money which goes to the church where the funeral takes place to help people buy medication, seek medical treatment, and support food banks.

“If someone does not agree with our rules, is not obliged to have the funeral in our church,” he said.

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